Martin O'Malley: the Democrats' rising star?
In an election defined by discontent, Maryland bucked the national mood Tuesday, voting for contentment in the person of Martin O'Malley, the Democratic governor. His triumph marked the birth of a new star in an otherwise demoralized national Democratic Party.
O'Malley won a second term easily, not just defeating his Republican rival and predecessor, Robert L. Ehrlich, in a rematch, but doubling his 2006 margin of victory. Not bad for a governor who pushed a huge tax increase in 2007, presided over three years of unemployment and economic slowdown and suffered from the widespread sense that Maryland is losing the job-creation sweepstakes to neighboring Virginia.
O'Malley, who won by 14 percentage points statewide, ran up his numbers in large part thanks to suburban Montgomery and Prince George's counties. He won more than three-quarters of roughly 470,000 votes cast in those two jurisdictions combined, including nearly 89 percent in Prince George's, his biggest margin anywhere in the state. His combined margin of victory in the two counties, about 262,000 votes, exceeded his overall statewide margin of 234,000 votes. In other words, without Montgomery and Prince George's, and Mr. O'Malley would have lost the election. (The City of Baltimore also chipped in, giving Mr. O'Malley, the former mayor, a cushion of 100,000 more votes than Mr. Ehrlich received.)
But don't count on Mr. O'Malley lavishing garlands of favors on the Washington suburbs in return for their electoral bounty. As a term-limited governor, he'll have his eye on making the leap to national politics, not on his firm base in one of the bluest of blue states. Faced with huge deficits, Mr. O'Malley will be looking for cuts and savings where he can find them, and the reality is that Prince George's and, especially, Montgomery, are target-rich places to look.
Schools may be one early target. The governor may start by withholding funding intended to compensate richer school systems for their higher costs, particularly for teacher salaries. Mr. O'Malley was able to furnish those funds for the last two years, but only thanks to federal stimulus dollars, which are now running dry.
O'Malley may also stand aside as lawmakers in Annapolis shift the cost of teachers pensions, whose cost to the state has ballooned thanks partly to overgenerous contracts with teachers unions, to localities such as Montgomery.
Heartless? Maybe. But O'Malley, now certified as a rising star, will be able to get away with it, making do with dispensing thank-yous instead of IOUs.
| November 4, 2010; 10:29 AM ET
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