From the Baltimore Sun

Maryland votes 2006

O'Malley faces two swift transitions
Gov.-elect looking for talent to run his administration

By Doug Donovan
Sun reporter

November 9, 2006

Tired and tieless, Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley said yesterday that he will begin to recruit top talent for his fledgling administration this week while helping his successor take over City Hall - tasks he deferred during a hard-fought 14-month campaign to unseat Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Before he turns his attention to state affairs, O'Malley, the seven-year mayor of Baltimore, said his immediate priorities were sleep and family time.

But supporters of the 43-year-old Democrat said he will have to quickly assemble a team and learn how to work with the 188 lawmakers in the Maryland General Assembly's two chambers - a contrast with the 15-member City Council.

With Del. Anthony G. Brown, the majority whip, as lieutenant governor, O'Malley said, he will have an edge in passing his priorities in the 2007 General Assembly session that begins in January.

The mayor must also swallow the acrimony that has long existed between him and Ehrlich to work with the departing administration in formulating next year's state budget - which must by law be submitted to the General Assembly within days of his January inauguration.

"The campaign is over, the governing will begin," O'Malley said in a City Hall news conference yesterday. "We need everybody - Democrats, Republicans, and independents."

Ehrlich conceded defeat yesterday morning in a phone call to O'Malley's house. In a televised speech later, Ehrlich said he will work to help O'Malley take over state government - even though he said he disagrees with the mayor's more liberal governing philosophy.

"We look forward to a very smooth transition," Ehrlich said.

He was not as conciliatory shortly after midnight yesterday, when he refused to admit defeat and said he wanted to wait for all absentee and provisional ballots to be counted - a process that could have taken weeks.

But when morning came and all precincts had been counted, the margin for O'Malley had expanded to more than 100,000 votes, putting the race out of reach for Ehrlich despite the tens of thousands of outstanding paper ballots.

Yesterday's brief morning concession speech by Ehrlich meant that the mayor could move ahead with his transition. He faces scores of critical decisions over the next two months, such as the hiring of department heads and the preparation of a legislative agenda.

Sen. George W. Della Jr., a South Baltimore Democrat, said the last mayor to become governor, William Donald Schaefer, had a hard time adjusting to a different level of government.

"There are a lot of different personalities ... and you can begin with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller - Good morning!" Della said. "You have to learn how to work it. That just doesn't come overnight. It doesn't come because you're of one party or another, or you're a nice guy."

O'Malley has said that when he gets to Annapolis, he will begin immediately to implement the same CitiStat accountability systems that he built in Baltimore. He promised to start a "State-stat" system within a month of taking office in departments overseeing juvenile, social and public safety services.

His transition team is expected to start identifying performance goals of state agencies that can be measured, tracked, computerized and discussed at sessions every other week to better manage state resources, find savings and cut waste.

Also at his disposal: filling up to 7,000 at-will positions in state government, a task that landed Ehrlich in a yearlong legislative inquiry. The probe determined Ehrlich fired some employees for political reasons, a violation of law.

The business community can expect to hear from O'Malley. The new governor says he will move to establish a group of business and efficiency experts to delve into the inner workings of state government.

That same effort in Baltimore gave O'Malley a map for improving the city operations and saving taxpayer money - and gave residents a way to track his progress online. The city has registered surpluses in the past two years, cut property taxes for the first time in decades and increased spending on after-school programs.

Former Vice President Al Gore stumped for O'Malley this week based on the mayor's nation-leading success in implementing business practices.

Those efforts - such as finding ways to improve the maintenance of state car fleets - rarely garner headlines, Gore said. But the cumulative savings free up money for the urgent needs O'Malley has identified: lowering tuition, expanding health care and saving the Chesapeake Bay.

An O'Malley administration also is expected to be diverse. Of the mayor's 31 Cabinet members in City Hall, 51 percent are African-American and 30 percent are women, according to his Web site.

O'Malley has said he will delegate policy decisions on tuition, health care, job creation and homeland security to Brown, his running mate.

Brown's experience in the Assembly - he has been a trusted lieutenant to House Speaker Michael E. Busch - could make it easier for their administration to pass its priorities. O'Malley might have more luck than Ehrlich finding a way to pass a plan to legalize slot machines in Maryland, for example.

Formulating legislation will depend largely on his staff. And the O'Malley employment agency is open - although the mayor promised not to purge the payroll of Republicans the way Ehrlich fired many Democrats.

"I'm sure there's a line forming somewhere," Della said.

At the front is Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, O'Malley's former city health commissioner, whose bid for Congress this year failed. Beilenson said yesterday that he wants to be the Maryland's health secretary: "I'd be very interested in it."

Others are beginning to lobby O'Malley for positions. Del. Curtis S. Anderson, a Baltimore Democrat, said he is pushing O'Malley to hire Devon Brown to head Maryland's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Brown is the director of Washington's Department of Corrections.

O'Malley is widely expected to reserve some ranking positions in Annapolis for his closest advisers: deputy mayors Michael Enright and Jeanne Hitchcock and communications director Steve Kearney. But the mayor said yesterday that he will reach beyond his inner circle to fill key posts.

The mayor will soon face the task of implementing the promises he made on the campaign trail and rewarding the groups - such as labor unions - that helped him get his win.

Republicans have argued that O'Malley will have to raise taxes drastically to pay for pledges he made as a candidate. O'Malley has not ruled out tax increases, but if he pushes for new revenues, it could jeopardize his attempts to build consensus, observers say.

And if he moves to push concessions on state labor unions, as he did as mayor with city unions, O'Malley could encounter resistance from a politically critical group.

For entertainment, there's one thing that Marylanders can bank on from an O'Malley administration: He'll put his band back to work.

As he promised a voter last month, "Win or lose, the band's coming back."

The mayor's sense of humor was on display again yesterday when he admitted that he and his wife, Katie Curran O'Malley, have not yet discussed how the family will handle the move from their Northeast Baltimore home to the governor's mansion. He was unsure whether the older of their four children - Grace, 15, Tara, 14, and, William, 8 - will remain in their Towson-area private schools.

"William is chairing the transition committee," O'Malley joked. "He has demanded a staff of nine."
Copyright © 2006, The Baltimore Sun