O'Malley Says He Won't Run For Governor
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, June 6, 2002; Page A01
BALTIMORE, June 5 -- Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley ended months of
speculation today by announcing that he would not run for governor, but
the mayor did not endorse the
frontrunner, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and criticized his own Democratic Party as "adrift."
At a noontime news conference at a downtown hotel, O'Malley said that deciding not to run for governor was "the most difficult political decision of my life."
"Difficult because it is counter to my nature to back down from tough
fights -- especially when so much is at stake," he said. "Difficult because
my party is adrift. Difficult because the
pursuit of justice has too often taken a back seat to the accumulation of power. Difficult because so much of our future progress as a people depends on the relationship of our city and
O'Malley was the last prominent Democrat considering running against
Townsend, who has seen such other potential challengers as Montgomery County
Executive Douglas M. Duncan
and Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry fall by the wayside. Maryland voters now will see an extended campaign through November's general election between Townsend
and the GOP's U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
Ehrlich had hoped for a divisive primary to bloody the Democratic nominee.
In a state where Democrats far outnumber Republicans, Ehrlich is looking
for any advantage he can find as he
heads into the November election. But with O'Malley out of the race, Townsend, who has raised more than $5 million for her campaign, can set her sights exclusively on Ehrlich.
Ehrlich might get some benefit financially from O'Malley's departure
from the race. Some conservative Democrats, business leaders and gambling
proponents who otherwise might have
given to O'Malley might contribute to the Republican instead.
Townsend called O'Malley's decision to stay out of the race "a good thing for the Democratic Party."
"My instinct has been all along that [O'Malley] would keep his promise
to the people of Baltimore," she said. "I'm excited about working with
the mayor to make the city of Baltimore a
Since the beginning of the year, O'Malley had been publicly mulling
a bid for governor, holding high-profile fundraisers and opening a campaign
headquarters as recently as last week.
He also has been critical of Townsend, lamenting "a vacuum of leadership in the state Democratic Party." And he has taken shots at legislative leaders for not doing more for Baltimore as
he tried to position himself as the outsider candidate in a party that has dominated Maryland politics for generations.
A first-term mayor, O'Malley did offer a fresh face and a potential
threat to Townsend, who has become the establishment candidate. He is 39,
a charismatic campaigner who fronts his
own Irish rock band and has received national attention for his new management programs in the city.
Dozens of city officials and supporters, as well as his wife, Katie,
who is a district court judge, joined him at today's announcement. O'Malley
never uttered Townsend's name. But in a
reference to his party's mascot, he said, "I've carried a lot of water for this donkey, and I will be supporting the Democratic party's nominee in the fall."
He also said he made his decision not to run without any outside pressure.
"Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I was not promised financial or
political support in the future for not
running," he said. He said he was staying to finish his agenda for the city.
O'Malley quickly left the hotel after his 10-minute speech and was not available for questions.
Townsend confirmed O'Malley's statement that there were no deals. She
said she didn't know what his decision would be until she saw him speak
on television; Baltimore television
stations carried portions of his announcement live.
Still, there have been occasional communications between the two camps,
most recently through House Appropriations Committee Chairman Howard P.
Rawlings, an influential Democrat
Two weeks ago, O'Malley gave Rawlings a list of things he would like
the next governor to do for Baltimore, including provide more money for
drug treatment and for economic
development. Rawlings, who backed O'Malley for mayor but has endorsed Townsend for governor, delivered that list to the lieutenant governor.
On Tuesday, Townsend's campaign called Rawlings to let him know that
Townsend would announce her support for most of the items on the list during
two appearances Thursday in
"As you can imagine, they're the same things that I've always been dedicated
to: drug treatment, crime reduction," Townsend said at a campaign rally
at an Annapolis restaurant where
she received the endorsement of the mayor of Annapolis, Democratic lawmakers from Anne Arundel County and a host of other officials.
Rawlings said that O'Malley did not ask him to deliver the list to Townsend but that he gave it to her so she would know what the mayor was thinking.
Aides said the list was not part of O'Malley's decision-making. "None
of these things should come as any surprise to anyone who had followed
the work of this mayor's administration
and advocacy in Annapolis," said O'Malley spokesman Steve Kearney.
O'Malley made his decision about a week ago. His thinking clarified as he visited an old friend and member of his band who was dying of cancer.
" 'Your problem, Martin, is you're drawn to the toughest fights,' " O'Malley said his friend told him. " 'But serving Baltimore, now, is the tougher of the two fights you weigh.' "
Some analysts have speculated that in a majority-African American city,
O'Malley was considering a run for governor because he fears his chances
of reelection should a strong black
NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, who attended O'Malley's announcement and
once considered a run for mayor himself, disagreed. "If he deserves reelection,
he will get it. It's going to
be based on something more valuable than race" as voters evaluate the mayor's record, he said.
O'Malley's decision heartened Townsend supporters.
"It's a relief," said Del. Joan Cadden (D-Anne Arundel). "He would have
divided the city. I still think she would have won. But it would have divided
the city and absolutely divided my
"He made the right choice for his constituents and for the interests
of the state," said Sen. Philip C. Jimeno (D-Anne Arundel), who said a
Townsend-O'Malley matchup would have been
"very bitterly divisive."
On the downside, Jimeno said, with O'Malley out, "a lot of money will open for Ehrlich," especially from gambling interests.
Ehrlich said today that he had seen an surge in contributions in recent
days as rumors began circulating that O'Malley had decided he would not
run. "These are folks who if they wanted
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend as governor, they would have given her early money, and they were not giving her early money," he said.
© 2002 The Washington Post Company