October 11, 2011

O'Malley, governors, urge passage of jobs bill

Gov. Martin O'Malley and 15 other Democratic governors sent a letter to Congress Tuesday afternoon urging passage of President Barack Obama's jobs legislation. Senate leaders want to bring the bill the floor today.

The letter, penned by O'Malley in his capacity as the leader of the Democratic Governors Association, asks for the "swift" consideration of the Obama's bill and argues that it "draws on ideas" governors from both parties are already using in their states.

The governors argue that "a modern economy requires modern investments" and say that to create jobs, the country must "be willing to educate, innovate and rebuild."

The letter hit notes familiar to those who watched his 2010 re-election campaign, with one line in particular echoing his stump speech. "There is nothing more important for a family than a job and nothing more important for our country in these challenging times," according to the letter.

O'Malley has said that he will push his own jobs bill in Maryland, possibly as soon as next week's special session. He has also floated the possibility of accelerating all or parts of the state's capital budget during the regular session so state funded construction projects could move forward faster.

Six Democratic governors did not sign the letter, including two with elections this year: Earl R. Tomblin who just eked out a victory in West Virginia and Steven Beshear who faces Kentucky voters in November.

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Posted by Annie Linskey at 3:12 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: DGA

October 5, 2011

Dems eke out a victory in W. Va

Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin squeezed out a victory over his Republican opponent in neighboring West Virginia, one of the four gubernatorial races scheduled this year.

The contest is widely viewed as an early test of voter attitudes toward Democrats, but it was also the first measure of Gov. Martin O'Malley's effectiveness as the leader of the Democratic Governors Association, which focused heavily on the race.

In a statement released Tuesday evening O'Malley said: "Democratic governors have shown an ability to thrive in the toughest of times because we are singularly focused on the things that we know will make our children winners and not losers in this modern economy: creating jobs and opportunity now."

The Republican Governors Association, which also paid for four ads in  the race, did not release a statement.

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Posted by Annie Linskey at 11:17 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: DGA

August 24, 2011

Md. Democrats, Va. Republicans exchange barbs

Maryland's Democratic Party shot back at the Virginia Republicans this morning, taking the Old Dominions to task for a news release they issued assailing Gov. Martin O'Malley's ability to handle the state budget.

"Bob McDonnell and Virginia Republicans tout their accomplishments but – as often with the GOP - the facts tell another story," said Maryland Democratic Party Executive Director David Sloan in a statement. "Rather than investing in Virginia’s future, McDonnell has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars from schools, colleges and universities, and cut funding by a third for EMTs, police officers and firefighters. "

The cross-border bickering bubbles up about a week after Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell became the head of the Republican Governors Association, an arrangement that sets up a natural rivalry with O'Malley, who heads the Democratic Governors Association.

The two men faced off over the weekend on CNN's State of the Union -- but O'Malley has gone out of his way to downplay any enhanced competition. On WTOP Monday, O'Malley said that McDonnell is a "skilled communicator" and said he can understand why McDonnell would be an "attractive" GOP candidate for higher office.

In the past McDonnell has also played nice -- he came to Annapolis for O'Malley's inauguration in January. Speaking to reporters in the statehouse, McDonnell said O'Malley "obviously had a record of accomplishments during his first four years" and added: "He's a very smart guy."

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Posted by Annie Linskey at 11:02 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: DGA

August 7, 2011

O'Malley tangles with a top Senate Republican

Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley's appearance this morning on ABC's This Week with Christiane Amanpour included a sharp back-and-forth about jobs with Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions.

Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate budget committee, floated a 10 percent cross-the-board cut to all federal departments and agencies as a solution to the federal debt crisis that led Standard and Poor's to downgrade America's sterling AAA rating.

O'Malley listened to Session's remarks and wryly noted: "I never once heard the distinguished senator use the word jobs." O'Malley next accused Sessions of "worshipping at the altar of the false god of tax cuts."

Sessions appeared whipsawed during the exchange and the two talked over one another for a period.

On the show, O'Malley promoted his view that the country must focus on a "balanced approach" that includes "investing in the future and investing in job creation."

It was O'Malley's first appearance on a network Sunday morning political talk show. But he's been a guest on several national cable shows since last December when he assumed leadership of Democratic Governors Association.

These TV appearances, plus a series of speeches at Democratic fundraisers around the country, have revealed a side of O'Malley rarely seen in Annapolis: A fierce partisan. Maryland's state legislature is dominated by the Democratic party, so broad swings at the GOP don't matter that much.

But on the national state, O'Malley regularly takes swings at the tea party, Republican "extremism" and he's jabbed at  New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a conservative darling.  

Posted by Annie Linskey at 9:21 AM | | Comments (23)
Categories: DGA

July 7, 2011

DGA raises $11 million in six months

The Democratic Governors Association fundraising figures don't become public until July 15, but the group is thrilled with their efforts and released numbers early. The group says they raised $11 million so far this year -- they compare that to 2007 when they raised $5.3 million. They will report $8.6 million in the bank.

No detail about big donors is available yet, but the figure is the first measure of Gov. Martin O'Malley's leadership of the organization. He took the helm in December and installed a loyal aide, Colm O'Comartun to run the group.

The Democratic group lags behind its Republican counterpart. The RGA released figures showing they've raised $22 million in the same time period, Politico has reported.

O'Malley has used the position at the DGA to raise his national profile, tangling on cable news shows with Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. He has racked up mileage and keynoted annual party dinners in Virginia, New Jersey and Kentucky. Next weekend he'll address the Utah Democrats when he's in Salt Lake City for the National Governors Association meeting.

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Posted by Annie Linskey at 8:37 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: DGA

February 19, 2011

O'Malley: GOP governors 'live in a different world'

Richmond, VA — Gov. Martin O’Malley stepped into the national spotlight as the head of Democratic Governors Association for first time Saturday night, delivering a twenty minute address to Virginia Democrats that urged government investments in education and infrastructure.

The themes he struck echoed his inaugural address and campaign stump speeches: Democrats should not run away from traditional priorities even in difficult economic times. Keeping schools and transportation projects funded will help states “move forward, not backward,” he said.

Political observers have been keeping close tabs on O’Malley since he became the head of the DGA late last year. Others, including former President Bill Clinton, used the job to build a national profile. O’Malley is term limited.

The governor has made frequent trips Washington, DC in the past two months and he’s sharpened his partisan rhetoric, tangling in the media with the Republican governors of Florida and New Jersey.

O’Malley’s address, delivered to about 1,400 at Virginia Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner, was laced with partisan remarks. The governor derided the “current crop of tea partying Republican governors” saying they “live in a different world.”

“The Republican governors’ tea party is more Mad Hatter than James Madison,” O’Malley said. He took another jab at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, calling the Republican darling a “colorful character.” For the Republicans, he said, “There is no need to pay bills, no need to protect bond ratings, no need to invest in the future. Down is up, up is down; candy is a vegetable, and vegetables are candy.”

Posted by Annie Linskey at 10:01 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: DGA

December 8, 2010

O'Malley installs longtime aide in key DGA post

The new top staff job at the Democratic Governors Association goes to Colm O’Comartun, an aide who has been with Gov. Martin O'Malley since his days as the mayor of Baltimore.

The move had been rumored for days and was openly discussed by lobbyists hanging around the bar at the Saint Regis Hotel in Washington last last week when O'Malley became the organization's chair. O’Comartun refused to talk about the possibility at the time.

In a statement O'Malley called O'Comartun "one of the most skilled and loyal public servants." That loyalty should come in handy if O'Malley hopes to maintain a national profile beyond the one (or maybe two?) year term of his chairmanship.

The executive director job will put O'Comartun in a good position to build relationships with top Democratic donors outside the Maryland money circuit. And it could let him build a network of the pollsters, consultants and field directors key to any national campaign.

At the very least he'll rack up favors from needy governors who look to him to deploy resources when their campaigns look shaky. O'Comartun's predecessor held the position for four years -- and worked there for six.

In Maryland O'Comartun has been largely out of the public eye (he's only been mentioned in the Sun five times), but he's frequently by O'Malley's side. We've described his role as a "handler" and a "spokesman" and once by his proper title: "director." He's gotten some of the cush assignments, traveling with O'Malley to England and Ireland in 2005.

During the recent campaign O'Comartun popped up with O'Malley at events and toted around the governor's over-sized three-ring binder. The governor clearly favors him, turning to him when even minor questions arose including, at one event, a request for information about the federal unemployment program. His official job with the state: Director of the Governor's Office.

O'Comartun will replace Nathan Daschle, the son of the former Senate Majority Leader. In a statement, O'Malley praised Daschle's work, saying he'd "taken the organization to new heights"
Posted by Annie Linskey at 12:58 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: DGA
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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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