Martin Joseph O'Malley (born January 18, 1963) is an American politician and attorney who served as the 61st Governor of Maryland from 2007 to 2015. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served as Mayor of Baltimore from 1999 to 2007, and was a councilman from the Third Council District in the northeast section of the city on the Baltimore City Council from 1991 to 1999. O'Malley was elected mayor of Baltimore in 1999 after a surprise win in the Democratic primary. As mayor, O'Malley prioritized reducing crime within the city. He was reelected in 2004. O'Malley won the 2006 gubernatorial election, defeating incumbent Republican governor Bob Ehrlich. During his first term, O'Malley implemented Maryland StateStat and became the first governor to sign the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. O'Malley won reelection in 2010. In 2011, he signed a law that would make illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children eligible for in-state college tuition. In 2012, he signed a law to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland. Both laws were approved in referenda in the 2012 general election. O'Malley served as the chair of the Democratic Governors Association from 2011 to 2013. After leaving office in 2015, O'Malley was appointed to The Johns Hopkins University's Carey Business School as a visiting professor focusing on government, business and urban issues. Long rumored to have presidential ambitions, O'Malley publicly announced his candidacy for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination on May 30, 2015. One of six major candidates, O'Malley struggled to gain support, and he suspended his campaign on February 1, 2016, after finishing third in the Iowa caucuses. He endorsed Hillary Clinton four months later. In 2019, O'Malley's first book ''Smarter Government: How to Govern for Results in the Information Age'' was published. The companion ''Smarter Government Workbook: A 14-Week Implementation Guide to Governing for Results'' was published in 2020.

Early life and education

Martin Joseph O'Malley was born on January 18, 1963, in Washington, D.C., the son of Barbara (née Suelzer) and Thomas Martin O'Malley. Martin's father served as a bombardier in the U.S. Army Air Force in the Pacific theater during the Second World War, and recalled witnessing the mushroom cloud rise over Hiroshima while on a routine mission. Thomas later became a Montgomery County–based criminal defense lawyer, and an assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. O'Malley's father was of Irish descent; his ancestors come from An Mám in County Galway. His mother's ancestry include Irish, German, Dutch and Scottish. He is a descendant of a War of 1812 veteran, and is an active member of the General Society of the War of 1812. He was later inducted as an honorary colonel in the Fort McHenry Guard of reenactor soldiers at the War of 1812 historical site and park/shrine. O'Malley attended the Our Lady of Lourdes School in Bethesda and Gonzaga College High School. He graduated from the Catholic University of America in 1985. Later that year, he enrolled in the University of Maryland School of Law, on the urban campus of the University of Maryland at Baltimore, earning his J.D. in 1988, and was admitted to the Maryland bar that same year.

Early political career

In December 1982, while still in college, O'Malley joined the Gary Hart presidential campaign for the 1984 election. In late 1983, he volunteered to go to Iowa where he phone-banked, organized volunteers, played guitar and sang at small fundraisers and other events. In 1986, while in law school, O'Malley was named by U.S. Representative (Congresswoman) in the Third Congressional District, Barbara Mikulski as state field director for her successful primary and general election campaigns for the U.S. Senate. He served as a legislative fellow in Mikulski's Senate office in 1987 and 1988. Later that year, he was hired as an assistant State's Attorney for the City of Baltimore, holding that position until 1990. In 1990, O'Malley ran for the Maryland State Senate in the 43rd State Senate District in northeast Baltimore. He challenged one-term incumbent John A. Pica in the Democratic Party primary, and lost by just 44 votes. He was considered an underdog when he first filed to run, but "came out of nowhere" to lead Pica on election night. Eventually he lost when the absentee ballots were later counted. In 1991, he was elected to the Baltimore City Council representing the 3rd Councilman District (when each of six districts had three members) and served from 1991 to 1999. As councilman, he served as chairman of the Legislative Investigations Committee and chairman of the Taxation and Finance Committee. During the 1992 Democratic primaries, he served as Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey's Maryland coordinator.

Mayor of Baltimore


O'Malley announced his decision to run for Mayor of Baltimore in 1999, after incumbent Kurt Schmoke decided not to seek re-election to a third term. His entrance into the race was greatly unexpected, and he faced initial difficulties as the only Caucasian candidate for mayor of a city which had been predominantly African-American since the 1960 Census and had recently had two successive black mayors. His strongest opponents in the crowded Democratic primary of seven were former City Councilman Carl Stokes, Baltimore Registrar of Wills Mary Conaway, and Council President Lawrence Bell. In his campaign, O'Malley focused on reducing crime and received the endorsement of several key African-American lawmakers and church leaders, as well as that of former mayor of Baltimore and Maryland governor William Donald Schaefer (1921-2011), the city's last Caucasian mayor, who had served 1971-1987. On September 14, he surprisingly won the Democratic primary with a 53% majority and went on to win the general election with 90% of the vote, defeating Republican Party nominee, developer David Tufaro. In 2003, O'Malley ran for re-election. He was challenged in the Democratic primary by four candidates, but defeated them with 67% of the vote. He had to wait more than a year to run in the general election because of a conflict between Maryland election law and the Baltimore city charter. At the same time that O'Malley won his first term, Baltimore citizens voted to move municipal elections to coincide with presidential elections. However, Maryland law gives the General Assembly sole power to set primary election dates, and the General Assembly refused to move the mayoral primary. In the November 4, 2004 general election, he was reelected with 87% of the vote. Due to the conflict, he was only elected to a three-year term rather than the usual four-year term.


During his first mayoral campaign, O'Malley focused on a message of reducing crime. In his first year in office, he adopted a statistics-based tracking system called "CitiStat", modeled after Compstat, a crime-management program first employed in the mid-1990s in New York City. The system logged every call for service into a database for analysis. The ''Washington Post'' wrote in 2006 that Baltimore's "homicide rate remains stubbornly high and its public school test scores disappointingly low. But CitiStat has saved an estimated $350 million and helped generate the city's first budget surplus in years." In 2004, the CitiStat accountability tool won Harvard University's "Innovations in American Government" award. The system garnered interest from not only Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty but even crime specialists from Britain. His record as mayor of Baltimore has drawn criticism. O'Malley has been accused by many of establishing a zero-tolerance policing strategy, aimed at reducing the city's high murder rate but that instead led to the targeting and abuse of black communities. O'Malley spoke at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, arguing that 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry was a better choice for homeland security than President George W. Bush. While running for governor in 2006, O'Malley said violent crime in Baltimore declined 37% while he was mayor. That statistic came from an audit of crime that used questionable methodology and became the subject of controversy; he was accused by both his Democratic primary opponent Doug Duncan and his Republican opponent, incumbent Governor Bob Ehrlich, of manipulating statistics to make false claims. The ''Washington Post'' wrote at the time that "no evidence has surfaced of a systemic manipulation of crime statistics," but that "there is no quick or definitive way for O'Malley to prove his numbers are right." In early 2005, Governor Robert Ehrlich fired aide Joseph Steffen for spreading rumors of marital infidelity about O'Malley on the Internet. O'Malley and his wife had previously held a highly publicized press conference to deny the rumors and accuse Republicans of partisan politics, although discussions in which Steffen posted the rumors were initiated by an anonymous user under the pseudonym "MD4Bush" who was later found to be Maryland Democratic Party official Ryan O'Doherty. During a 2005 conference at the National Press Club, where mayors from across the U.S.A. gathered to denounce President George W. Bush's proposed budget, O'Malley compared the budget to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, declaring, "Back on September 11, terrorists attacked our metropolitan cores, two of America's great cities. They did that because they knew that was where they could do the most damage and weaken us the most. Years later, we are given a budget proposal by our commander in chief. ... And with a budget ax, he is attacking America's cities. He is attacking our metropolitan core." For this he was criticized by not only Republicans but fellow Democrats, and in a subsequent interview said he "in no way intended to equate these budget cuts, however bad, to a terrorist attack."

Media attention

In 2002, at the age of 39, O'Malley was named "The Best Young Mayor in the Country" by ''Esquire''; and in 2005, ''TIME'' magazine named him one of America's "Top 5 Big City Mayors". In August 2005, ''Business Week'' Magazine Online called him one of five "new stars" in the Democratic Party, along with Senator and future President Barack Obama of Illinois, future Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, future Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and future chief of staff for President Obama and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. ''Business Week'' declared that O'Malley "has become the Party's go-to guy on protecting the homeland. The telegenic Mayor has developed a detailed plan for rail and port safety and has been an outspoken critic of White House security priorities."

Governor of Maryland


O'Malley considered a run for governor in the 2002 election but decided not to run. In October 2005, after much speculation, he officially announced he would run in the 2006 election. He had one primary opponent, Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, who abruptly dropped out in June a few days after being diagnosed with clinical depression and endorsed O'Malley, who thus became the Democratic Party nominee with no primary opposition, challenging incumbent Bob Ehrlich. He selected Delegate Anthony G. Brown of Prince George's County as his running mate for lieutenant governor. The ''Baltimore Sun'' endorsed O'Malley, saying: "When he was first elected mayor in 1999, the former two-term city councilman inherited a city of rising crime, failing schools, and shrinking economic prospects. He was able to reverse course in all of these areas." ''The Washington Post'' endorsed his opponent, but noted that O'Malley, while "not solvngthe problems of rampant crime and rough schools in Baltimore," had "put a dent in them" while criticizing his gubernatorial campaign for being too focused on Baltimore and offering "little of substance" on Washington-area issues. ''The Washington Times'' complained that O'Malley, along with the Maryland General Assembly, had moved too far to the left. O'Malley led by margins of several points in most polls during the campaign, but polls tightened significantly in the last week of the campaign. He ultimately defeated Ehrlich 53%–46% in the November 7, 2006, general election. Major land developer Edward St. John was fined $55,000 by the Maryland Office of the State Prosecutor for making illegal contributions to the 2006 O'Malley gubernatorial campaign. The ''Washington Times'' reported later that the Governor's administration had issued a press release touting a new $28-million highway interchange leading from Interstate 795 to one of St. John's properties. Governor O'Malley's spokesman said there was no "quid pro quo," and a spokesman for the County Executive said the project had been a county transportation priority since before both O'Malley and the executive were elected. In 2010, O'Malley announced his intention to run for re-election while Ehrlich announced he would also run, setting up a rematch of 2006. His future rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton, said in a private email at the time that "he should be reelected by acclamation for steering the ship of state so well." Despite major losses for Democrats nationwide, O'Malley defeated Ehrlich 56%–42%, receiving just over a million votes. Due to term limits, he was unable to run for a third term in 2014.

First term


O'Malley called a special session of the General Assembly in November 2007 to close a projected budget deficit of $1.7 billion for 2008–2009, in which he and other lawmakers passed a tax plan that would raise total state tax collections by 14%. In April 2009, he signed the traffic speed camera enforcement law he had supported and fought for to help raise revenue to try to overcome an imminent state deficit. Through his strenuous lobbying, the measure was revived after an initial defeat and passed on a second vote.

Maryland StateStat

One of O'Malley's first actions as governor was to implement the same CitiStat system he used to manage the city Baltimore as mayor on a statewide level. Maryland StateStat was first tried in 2007 by a few public safety and human services agencies. By 2014, over 20 agencies were engaged in the StateStat process through monthly individual agency meetings and quarterly cross-agency Stats including BayStat, StudentStat, VetStat and ReEntryStat. (The EPA would later base its ChesapeakeStat program on O'Malley's innovative BayStat program.) In 2012, he launched Maryland's Open Data Portal- StateStat, which used the data in the Portal to track progress towards his 16 strategic goals. As one of the few states at the time linking progress directly to open data, Maryland led the nation in government transparency and accountability. O'Malley has said that President Obama has looked at StateStat as a potential model for tracking stimulus funding.

Democratic Party

O'Malley was elected as the vice chairman of the Democratic Governors Association for 2009–2010, and on December 1, 2010, he was elected chairman for 2010–2011.


Soon after entering office, O'Malley closed the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup, a notoriously violent maximum-security prison.

National Popular Vote

In April 2007, O'Malley became the first governor to sign legislation entering a state into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Designed to reform how states allocate their electoral votes, the National Popular Vote plan has since been enacted in nine additional states and the District of Columbia.

Second term


In a debate during the 2010 campaign, O'Malley referred to undocumented immigrants as "new Americans" while endorsing stricter enforcement against undocumented immigration by the federal government. In May 2011, he signed a law making the children of undocumented immigrants eligible for in-state college tuition under certain conditions. The law provides that undocumented immigrants can be eligible for in-state tuition if they have attended a high school in Maryland for three years, and if they or their parents have paid state income taxes during that time. In response, Delegate Neil Parrott created an online petition to suspend the law pending a referendum to be voted on in the 2012 general election. On November 6, 2012, a majority (58%) of state voters passed referendum Question 4 in support of the law O'Malley had signed. During the 2014 crisis involving undocumented immigrant children from Central America crossing the border, O'Malley refused to open a facility in Westminster, Maryland, to house them. The White House criticized his decision as hypocritical given his prior comments that he thought deporting all these children was wrong, but he protested that his remarks had been mischaracterized.

Same-sex marriage

O'Malley supported a bill considered by the General Assembly to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland, even though Archbishop of Baltimore Edwin O'Brien had urged him as a Catholic not to support the bill in a private letter sent two days before O'Malley voiced his support. "I am well aware that the recent events in New York have intensified pressure on you to lend your active support to legislation to redefine marriage," O'Brien wrote. "As advocates for the truths we are compelled to uphold, we speak with equal intensity and urgency in opposition to your promoting a goal that so deeply conflicts with your faith, not to mention the best interests of our society." O'Malley responded, "I do not presume, nor would I ever presume as Governor, to question or infringe upon your freedom to define, to preach about, and to administer the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church. But on the public issue of granting equal civil marital rights to same-sex couples, you and I disagree." The Maryland House of Delegates approved this bill by 72–67 on February 17, and the Maryland State Senate passed it by a 25–22 margin on February 23. It was amended to take effect only on January 1, 2013, pending a voter referendum. After O'Malley signed the bill on March 1, 2012, referendum petitioners collected the necessary signatures required to challenge the law, but Referendum Question 6 in support of same-sex marriage passed by 52.4% on November 6, 2012.

Animal welfare

In 2013, O'Malley signed a bill to ban the practice of shark finning in Maryland, making it the sixth U.S. state to enact this regulation. The signature of this bill made Maryland the first East Coast state to make it illegal to possess, sell, trade or distribute shark fins.


O'Malley opposed a 2011 lawsuit filed by the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic against Perdue Farms, a poultry agribusiness corporation based in Maryland. The lawsuit accused Perdue of allowing run-off phosphorus pollution from one of its contact farms into Chesapeake Bay. In 2014, he also promised to veto the Poultry Fair Share Act which would require poultry companies in Maryland to pay taxes to clean up the Chesapeake Bay equal to the existing cleanup taxes required of Maryland citizens. Also in 2014, O'Malley approved the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," in western Maryland but only on condition of tight regulations. He had previously blocked the technique from the region for three years, awaiting the report from the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission on the risks and benefits of this controversial procedure. In December 2014 O'Malley issued an executive order to drive a Zero-Waste future for Maryland, but the plan was later cancelled by O'Malley's successor Larry Hogan in 2017 "in response to complaints from local governments.

Capital punishment

O'Malley, a long-time opponent of capital punishment, signed a bill on May 2, 2013, that repealed capital punishment in Maryland for all future offenders. Although the repeal did not affect the five inmates then on death row in Maryland, O'Malley commuted the sentences of four of them to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Gun control

O'Malley supported gun control in his second term. On May 16, 2013, he signed a new gun control bill into law.


O'Malley is pro-choice and believes abortion should be legal without government interference until the time in pregnancy when the fetus might survive outside the womb. In Maryland fetus viability is defined as when, in a doctor's best medical judgment, there is a reasonable likelihood of the fetus' sustained survival outside the womb, which on average is 22-24 weeks.

Political ambitions

After O'Malley stood in for 2008 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at a Democratic campaign event on June 2, 2007 in New Hampshire, delegate Tony O'Donnell said in response, "It's the worst-kept secret in Maryland that the governor has national ambitions." State Senate President Thomas V. ("Mike") Miller, Jr. said O'Malley's political future "comes into play in everything he does", adding O'Malley is "very much like Bill Clinton in being slow and deliberative and calculating in everything he does." Speculation about O'Malley's plans was further fueled by his high profile at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, where he was given a prime-time speaking slot on the second night and spoke to delegations from several states including Iowa, where the first presidential caucuses are held in election years, and Ohio, a key swing state in recent presidential elections. O'Malley's prominence at the convention generated both support for, and criticism of, his record. U.S. Senator Ben Cardin and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman praised his speech, with Ulman saying, "To borrow a catchphrase from his address, his career is moving forward, not back."

2016 presidential campaign

O'Malley publicly expressed interest in a presidential run in 2016 on multiple occasions. At a press conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and at a National Governors Association meeting in August 2013, he admitted he was laying "the framework" for a presidential run. In October 2014, he discussed some of his potential policies as president during a panel discussion with Paul Hawken and Tom Steyer. In April 2015, he said he expected to make a decision on the race by the end of May. After months of consideration, O'Malley indicated on Twitter that he would announce his candidacy on May 30, 2015, at Baltimore's historic Federal Hill Park, overlooking the city's picturesque downtown skyline and the Inner Harbor. On that date, he formally announced his candidacy for the 2016 presidential nomination. On February 1, 2016, after performing poorly in the Iowa caucuses, however, he suspended his campaign, receiving only 0.6% of state delegate equivalents awarded in the Iowa caucuses while both former First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of New York and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont received over 49% each. After suspending his campaign, the former Maryland governor gave a speech, saying:
Tonight, I have to tell you that I am suspending this Presidential bid. But I am not ending this fight. Our country is worth saving, the American dream is worth saving, and this planet is worth saving. So as we march forward to the fall, let us all resolve together that the love, the generosity, the compassion and the commitment of this campaign will continue to point our country forward.
Four months later, on June 9, 2016, O'Malley officially endorsed Hillary Clinton.


He was speculated as a possible choice for United States Secretary of Homeland Security, should Hillary Clinton be elected president. This speculation was rendered moot as Donald Trump was instead elected, eventually choosing John F. Kelly as his pick. On May 5, 2016, O'Malley joined the MetroLab Network, a group focusing on city–university partnerships and based at Heinz College (the public policy school of Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was appointed chairman of the advisory committee and made a senior fellow. O'Malley was subsequently made a fellow of the Institute of Politics and Public Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. After the Democratic primaries, O'Malley explored a potential run for chair of the Democratic National Committee. He later withdrew interest after Minnesota representative Keith Ellison received the endorsements of several major Democratic figures. In June 2016, Boston College Law School's Rappaport Center for Public Policy announced that O'Malley would be the inaugural Jerome Lyle Rappaport Visiting Professor and teach at the law school during the Spring 2017 semester.

Personal life

O'Malley met his wife, the former Catherine "Katie" Curran, in 1986 while they were both in law school. At the time, he was working on Barbara Mikulski's U.S. Senate campaign and she was working on her father J. Joseph Curran, Jr.'s campaign for Attorney General of Maryland. They were married in 1990 and are the parents of four children, Grace, Tara, William and Jack. Before the 2006 election, O'Malley's father-in-law, Joseph Curran, citing his age and his long career, decided not to seek re-election for attorney general, preventing any conflict of interest that might arise in having O'Malley as governor. O'Malley is a Roman Catholic, who was educated in Catholic schools and was described by ''The Washington Post'' in 2015 as "a pray-every-morning, church-every-Sunday believer." He often travels to the West of Ireland and NUI Galway awarded him an honorary degree in 2008. In November 2019, O'Malley encountered acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli II in a Capitol Hill bar and confronted him with what The Washington Post reported one witness described as a “shame-invoking tirade" centering on the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

O'Malley's March

O'Malley has said that he grew up surrounded by Irish music. While attending Gonzaga College High School in Washington D.C. in 1979, O'Malley and his football coach Danny Costello formed a band, Shannon Tide, which played Irish music and folk rock. After graduating from University of Maryland Law School, O'Malley went solo for a year. In 1988, he founded the Baltimore-based Celtic rock band O'Malley's March, in which he is still the lead singer and plays acoustic guitar and penny whistle. In addition to Irish music, the band's mainstays include Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," the parlor song "Hard Times Come Again No More," The Pogues ' "Body of an American" and Passenger's "Scare Away The Dark. During O'Malley's mayoralty he wrote and performed a number of songs celebrating his adopted city and its strong Irish heritage. As the bicentennial of the War of 1812 approached in 2012-2015, while still Governor as he and his compatriots celebrated the British defeat in the "Battle for Baltimore" and other musical numbers at a stirring concert in Patterson Park in East Baltimore on the anniversary of the land and sea attack on Defenders' Day in September 2014. In addition to more traditional venues, the band performs for O'Malley's campaign events. In 2012, it played at the White House for 44th President Barack Obama as part of an extended Saint Patrick's Day celebration honoring Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. O'Malley's March continues to perform following O'Malley's decision to end his 2016 presidential campaign. Through O'Malley's March, he has become close to Leo Moran and other members of The Saw Doctors.

In other media

According to David Simon, the creator of the HBO drama ''The Wire'', the show's fictional mayor of Baltimore Tommy Carcetti is "not O'Malley," but O'Malley was one of several inspirations. Writing in ''Baltimore Magazine'' several years after the show had closed, Simon did disclose a private phone conversation with O'Malley as production of the show's second season was beginning, in which the mayor urged that the show's contents be changed to put Baltimore and his own administration in a better light, and threatened the show's continuation in Baltimore unless such changes were made. O'Malley appeared in the film ''Ladder 49'' as himself. O'Malley is a War of 1812 buff. History Channel's 2004 documentary ''First Invasion: The War of 1812'' featured him in a segment regarding the British attack on Baltimore in 1814. He also appeared in the 2014 Travel Channel documentary ''The War of 1812 Trail''. In 2019, O'Malley appeared on Ireland's ''The Late Late Show'' to discuss his love of Shane MacGowan's music.

Electoral history

;Mayor of Baltimore ;Governor of Maryland

See also

* Democratic Party presidential candidates, 2016


External links

Martin O'Malley
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