POLITICAL LIFE

First Lady Takes Role in Swift Stride

Wife, mother, District judge and Maryland first lady Katie O'Malley relaxes  --  briefly.
Wife, mother, District judge and Maryland first lady Katie O'Malley relaxes -- briefly. (By Andrea Bruce -- The Washington Post)
By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 4, 2007

Among Katie O'Malley's first public acts as Maryland's new first lady was nodding off during the State of the Union address.

This would, for some, be an embarrassing moment, six days after her husband was sworn in as governor. Her drooping green eyes were caught on camera. But she's relishing it.

"I told Martin I'm framing the photos," she said. "I love it: Katie O'Malley falls asleep while the president talks about sending more troops to Iraq. Sorry, Mr. President!"

Gov. Martin O'Malley's wife had risen at 5:30 a.m.; awakened, fed and hauled four kids into the family's Chevy Suburban; made three drop-offs at their schools in Baltimore; driven to one of that city's district courthouses, where she is a judge; picked the kids up from her parents' house; rushed back to the governor's mansion in Annapolis; and slipped into a dress for the ride to Washington.

This juggling act will become even more complicated when she tacks on entertaining and other official functions, including fighting truancy, an underlying problem in many of the cases she hears.

But Catherine Curran O'Malley, 44, is not trying to find her way as a traditional political spouse or become a behind-the-scenes adviser to her husband. As a member of Maryland's political royalty -- her father, Joe Curran, a former lieutenant governor and longtime attorney general, retired last fall -- she is behind her husband's career 100 percent. But she has no time for roles. Frankly, she's too busy.

"If I weren't working full time, I would have a much fuller first lady role," she said, kicking off her black pumps and relaxing with a Diet Coke on Wednesday after a reception at the mansion for guests at the State of the State address. Before she took her seat in the House chamber at noon, she had heard domestic-violence cases for four hours.

Some political wives have advised her to quit her job so she can help people as first lady. "I explained that I help people every day with the job I have," she said with a hint of frustration. "I'm not going to quit my job, because I love it."

O'Malley is a rare bird in politics: She is a completely unscripted spouse. She talks a lot faster than her husband, a former Baltimore mayor, who is known for grand expression. When an interview has reached its appointed end, she isn't finished. She is so frank that aides interrupt frequently to say, "That's off the record." She is fiercely energetic, although she worries that she's flagging at work these days because the commute between Annapolis and Baltimore has cut into her early morning workouts.

"I don't know when in her adult life Katie hasn't had a lot going on," said her sister, Mary, a freelance photographer. "I would say she thrives that way."

Not since Herbert O'Conor became governor in 1939 have so many children moved into the governor's mansion, a Georgian brick estate on State Circle. The O'Conors had five, ages 3 to 16; the O'Malley brood is four: Jack, 4; William, 9; Tara, 14; and Grace, 15. The girls are ninth-and 10th-graders at Notre Dame Prep, their mother's alma mater.

They have a golden retriever, Lady, an Airedale terrier named Scout and two cats still in hiding in the 54 rooms of their new home.


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