Former Southern Md. Lawmaker Owings Considers Challenging O'Malley for Governor

George W. Owings III served in the House of Delegates and was secretary of veterans affairs.
George W. Owings III served in the House of Delegates and was secretary of veterans affairs. (2004 Photo By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)
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By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 7, 2009

George W. Owings III, a former state secretary of veterans affairs and former legislator from Southern Maryland, said yesterday that he is giving "serious consideration" to challenging Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley in next year's Democratic primary.

"A lot of working-class Democrats I run into have concerns about the direction the state is going," said Owens, adding that he expects to make a decision on running within 60 days.

Owings served for 16 years as a Democratic delegate, rising to majority whip, before he was tapped in 2004 for the Cabinet of Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the state's first Republican chief executive in a generation. Owings was replaced by O'Malley four months into his administration in 2007.

Owings is positioning himself as a conservative alternative to O'Malley, but voters in Democratic primaries tend to be more liberal than the party as a whole. Owings acknowledged he could face long odds. "I'm reminded of the odds that were given to Barack Obama and the odds that were given to putting a man on the moon," he said.

Owings was highly critical of a $1.4 billion tax increase shepherded through the legislature by O'Malley in 2007 to help address a large potential budget shortfall, saying it "had a real impact on working families."

O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese declined to comment directly on Owings, saying: "There will be a lot of speculation over the coming months over who may or may not run for governor. In the meantime, we're continuing to focus on putting Maryland families first in these tough economic times."

On the Republican side, Ehrlich has signaled that he will make a decision in several months about whether to seek a rematch with O'Malley next year. Mike Pappas, a party activist from Baltimore County, has launched an exploratory committee.

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