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NewsMarylandIn-Depth: Martin O'Malley

Maryland Democrats win big on ballot questions

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One of the biggest winners in Maryland Tuesday night was not technically on the ballot: the Democratic leadership in Annapolis.

All four of the controversial ballot questions were about measures championed by Gov. Martin O'Malley and approved by the General Assembly, where Democrats hold the majority. And all four were affirmed by the voters. Those measures expand gambling, legalize same-sex marriage, allow in-state tuition for some illegal immigrants and create new congressional district boundaries.

"It was a great day for Democrats," House Speaker Michael E. Busch said Wednesday. In addition to the approval of the ballot questions supported by party leaders, he pointed to the re-election of U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin and the election of Democrat John Delaney in Maryland's 6th Congressional District.

O'Malley, who had no public schedule Wednesday, sent out a series of congratulatory messages via e-mail and social media on the passage of the tuition measure, called the Dream Act, and same-sex marriage. "In Maryland we move forward not back," he wrote from his official Twitter account.

On the other side, advocates were far quieter.

Neil C. Parrott, the freshman Republican lawmaker who revolutionized the petition process with a web tool to help gather signatures, said that his side needs more time to discuss and digest the losses.

"We relied on a grass-roots effort," said Parrott. "That grass-roots effort really wasn't enough. … We weren't able to communicate that message loudly enough, or clearly enough."

Parrott, of Hagerstown, led the effort to petition the Dream Act to the ballot in 2011. It was the first time in two decades any state law had been challenged at the ballot box. This year he helped get the needed signatures to put same-sex marriage and the congressional map onto the ballot. Getting voter approval of gambling was part of the legislation approved by lawmakers.

The delegate hoped national groups would come forward to help fight all three of the laws he put on the ballot. In the end, the only issue to attract out-of-state attention was same-sex marriage — which narrowly won approval.

Parrott said that his group, MDPetitions.com, was bogged down in legal battles over the wording of referendum questions and didn't turn to campaigning until too late.

Still, he said he believes the petition process is important and should be used as a check on the General Assembly.

"The goal was to let people have a voice, and the people got a voice," Parrott said. "It was a big victory that the three were on the ballot."

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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Baltimore Sun reporter Michael Dresser contributed to this article.

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