By Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 23, 2010; B01
It had nearly all the elements of a campaign kickoff: A video biography, a prosperous, politically connected audience, a rousing speech critical of the state's leadership.
But at the end of a night billed as a "birthday celebration" and tribute to former Prince George's county executive Wayne K. Curry, attendees left wondering whether Curry was gearing up for a gubernatorial run or simply enjoying the spotlight's glow once more.
Before a packed crowd Thursday in an Upper Marlboro ballroom -- dotted with County Council members, state delegates and union chiefs -- Curry delivered an assault on state leaders and accused them of taking the votes of Prince George's residents for granted.
"You know, some of our leaders don't get it," Curry said. "Like the captain of the Titanic, they're sailing smugly, disregarding serious warnings that icebergs are ahead. . . . The tribulations of regular people only landed on their ears at the commencement of the election season."
The "leaders" Curry targeted in his speech went unnamed, but many in the crowd said they were left with the impression that his sights were set on Gov. Martin O'Malley, a fellow Democrat who did not attend the event.
Tom Russell, O'Malley's campaign manager, declined to comment on a possible challenge from Curry. He said the governor spoke at an event in Baltimore on Thursday that had been on his calendar for some time.
Asked Friday whether he was considering a run, Curry said, "No decisions of that kind have been made." He added, however, that the large crowd at his party "reflects a hunger for leadership."
Curry said the proceeds from the event, after expenses, would go to help earthquake victims in Haiti. Whatever his ultimate intentions, the event underscored how much uncertainty hangs over Maryland's late-starting governor's race. Former Republican governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. continues to mull whether to get into the contest against O'Malley, who defeated him four years ago. O'Malley has one Democratic primary challenger: George W. Owings III, a former veterans affairs secretary from Ehrlich's Cabinet.
Some question whether Curry's main goal is to grab attention and stay relevant, rather than mount a serious challenge. "I think it's Wayne being Wayne," said Del. Barbara A. Frush (D-Prince George's), who attended the party and has endorsed O'Malley. "He always likes to kind of throw those things out there, to make everybody speculate. . . . He likes to stir the pot."
For one potential rival of Curry's, the large crowd itself was the message.
"From a political standpoint," Owings said Thursday, "if this isn't flexing one's muscles, I don't know what is."
Staff writer John Wagner contributed to this report.