O'Malley kicks off reelection campaign to 'take Maryland forward'

By Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley launched his reelection campaign in lofty terms Tuesday, telling crowds of die-hard Democrats and other supporters that over the next four years, he can lead the state back to economic growth and protect its middle class.

"In the larger sense, this battle is not about the next election; it's about the next generation," said O'Malley (D), flanked by his wife and four children at a rally in Baltimore, with nearly 400 people waving his campaign's bright green signs. "It's a fight about the children of Maryland. It's about our right, it's about our responsibility, it's about our freedom to leave them a better future even than our parents were able to give us.

"The time is now, and the battle is here," O'Malley said to shouts and hollers of support. "Join with your neighbors, join with us . . . give us your hand, give us your hope."

In four scripted rallies over eight hours and traveling nearly 200 miles, O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) repeated with increasing force that a vote for them would "take Maryland forward" and that one for former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), his best-known challenger, would be a step backward.

O'Malley made that argument in Baltimore, at Prince George's Community College in Upper Marlboro, in Waldorf and again Tuesday night at a rally in Rockville. His speech also included general criticism of higher spending, a property tax increase and fee increases that Ehrlich supported when the state's economy was in better shape.

"Take Maryland back to what?" O'Malley said in Prince George's and Rockville. "Take Maryland back to when, in easier times, our state was actually slipping back? Back to the biggest proposed spending increases of any governor in modern Maryland history, back to what, back to what?"

Unlike O'Malley, who held a news conference the day that Ehrlich kicked off his campaign, the Republican challenger stayed out of sight Tuesday, issuing a statement that did not directly address O'Malley's main criticism.

"I welcome Governor O'Malley to the campaign," Ehrlich said. "The citizens of Maryland -- particularly the 230,000 Marylanders who are currently unable to find work -- deserve a clear choice in this election. I look forward to a vigorous exchange of ideas with the governor on who has the vision required to help revitalize our economy, lower Maryland's tax burden, and fix the budget mess in Annapolis."

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), who attended the Prince George's rally, said he was not surprised that the two candidates, who attacked one another with negative ads four years ago, had remained civil early in the game. Miller said that would appear to help O'Malley.

"He doesn't need to go" negative, Miller said. "He can talk about his record."

Whether they can be attributed to O'Malley's policies, Tuesday's events made clear the governor intends to take credit for Maryland's employment gain last month. After nearly a year and a half of job losses, Maryland led the nation with more than 35,00o new jobs, according to federal data. "More new jobs last month than in any other state in the entire United States," O'Malley said more than once.

State officials say those numbers may be inflated because winter weather in February prevented jobs from being counted that month. O'Malley also deflected criticism Tuesday about how the state lost to Virginia this week in trying to become the new home for Northrop Grumman's world headquarters.

"I can't guarantee that we'll win every one, but we do go after every job opportunity we possibly can find," O'Malley said.

Tom Russell, O'Malley's campaign manager, said it shouldn't be surprising that neither O'Malley or Ehrlich has gone for the jugular. "These are two guys who are well known. They've each got their own style and their own record, and we'll have plenty to talk about, because there are clear differences between the two."

Of Tuesday's kickoff, he said, "clearly we're not breaking new ground here. It's a reintroduction."

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