Wednesday, December 19, 2012

O'Malley's choice

MD Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) has two years left before he's termed out of office, and we're starting to hear quite a bit of chatter about how he'll use those two years.

That's because it'll be his last chance to beef up his resume before a potential presidential run, and EVERYTHING he does between now and then will be viewed through that lens.

So -- it seems like there are two paths for him.

1. Broaden his resume with something that's not a cultural issue. He fought the fight on same-sex marriage and, in the past, on capital punishment, and while it's endeared him to progressives, it's kind of redundant (i.e. passionate social cause).

If he takes the broader door, look for him to focus on transportation or, a little sexier, offshore wind development.

As far as wind development goes, that's at least what Republicans are gearing up to face (emphasis added).

“I don't think he’s done,” said Sen. Edward R. Reilly (R-Dist. 33) of Crofton. “I think he has this personal list of things he wants to accomplish, and he's using these issues to build his national audience.”

Offshore wind development, Reilly said, which has failed twice to make it out of the General Assembly, would be a “jewel in his crown.

In fact, John Wagner recently wrote that aides are indicating O'Malley will, indeed, make a push for a wind bill.

But having said that, there'll be plenty of pressure to do something more obviously practical -- like developing transportation.

2. The other possibility is that O'Malley could try to follow up on his success with same-sex marriage to prosecute another cultural war -- a fight to end the death penalty.

Nationally, progressive activists are far more interested in his potential work there than with something like transportation.

And there are signs he might choose this cause.

He recently met with the president of the NAACP, Ben Jealous, to have a chat about various issues, and the death penalty was the dominant one.

On that score, Jealous emerged saying O'Malley "gets it", but that the governor wasn't making any promises.

Jealous stopped short of claiming a commitment from O'Malley to make repeal a part of his own legislative agenda and to make an all-out effort for repeal. The NAACP chief expressed confidence that by the time the legislature convenes Jan. 9, the organization will have lined up enough votes to show O'Malley the effort can succeed.

“He is asking us to show we still have the support,” Jealous said.

Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for O'Malley, agreed that the meeting went well and confirmed Jealous' account.

“The governor would like to gauge the support for a potential ban and would like to take this information into account as to whether to move forward,” she said. Guillory said the question of whether to incorporate repeal into his 2013 agenda is “still under discussion.”

So this will be interesting -- the more O'Malley indulges death penalty chat with national leaders, the more they're going to expect him to actually do it. And the more they expect him to do it, the more he'll be obligated.

Again, politically, the question is whether he actually needs another social cause for his resume.

So which door -- broaden the resume or double-down on social causes? But doing both is probably too much to ask.

UPDATE: O'Malley met with reporters in Maryland today and spelled out his agenda.

Sure enough, he said "the two areas where we need to do better" are energy and transportation.

That suggests door #1 for O'Malley.

Also, he's going to push for a number of gun control measures. My guess is that -- and not the death penalty -- will be his contribution to progressives on social issues.

The Capital Gazette:

The governor said he directed staff to lay out a three-prong plan that includes banning assault weapons and magazines that hold a large amount of ammunition, expanding mental health services and improving school security.

He said the legislation hasn’t been drafted yet, but he will sign a bill to outlaw assault weapons if the General Assembly passes one during its 90-day session beginning Jan. 9.