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An official entrance and a slight detour


The story line yesterday was that Mayor Martin O'Malley filed the required papers for governor at the Board of Elections in Annapolis, formally launching his campaign more than nine months after he declared his intentions to run during a big event in a Baltimore park.

The real order of the day, however, was to steal a little of the sunshine showering Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s official re-election bash in Arbutus. Call it political party-crashing, if you will, a strategy that was clear when O'Malley descended on Arbutus later in the day for a "kitchen table conversation" - a regular feature of his campaign - with a local family.

Around the corner, Ehrlich supporters lined sidewalks, held signs and waved as supporters and the media descended on the governor's boyhood home for his early-evening announcement.

Earlier, during a rally in front of the state AFL-CIO and across from the governor's mansion, O'Malley and his running mate, Del. Anthony G. Brown of Prince George's County, led about 200 supporters in chants of "No More Years." They promised supporters that they would advocate for working families, not special interests and corporations, and they chided Ehrlich, a Republican, for limiting opportunities for middle-class Marylanders.

"We can't simply afford another four years like the four years we've just had," O'Malley said.

Brown was more pointed, criticizing the governor for vetoing an increase in the minimum wage, limiting health benefits for pregnant women and children and appointing his chief campaign fundraiser to the University System of Maryland Board of Regents.

"For the past four years, Bob Ehrlich has enjoyed being governor more than he's enjoyed governing and the heavy lifting that it takes to govern," Brown said, drawing knowing nods and yelps of "Yes!" from his audience. "And what he's done consistently is protected those who are least in need of being protected."

O'Malley and Brown appeared buoyed by the recent withdrawal of Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, a Democrat who bowed out from the race last week to seek help for clinical depression. The mayor and his running mate gathered their supporters with several of Duncan's, including Montgomery County Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. and former state Democratic Party Chairman Isiah Leggett.

Madaleno said there are no hard feelings between the O'Malley and Duncan camps despite Duncan's repeated charges that O'Malley mismanaged Baltimore schools and massaged city crime statistics to show greater progress under his leadership. "I think everybody's gotten on board," Madaleno said.

With representatives from several unions, a collection of state lawmakers and the mayor's family, O'Malley and Brown paraded supporters through the streets of Annapolis to the State Board of Elections. The group snaked around Church Circle and up West Street, holding signs and pumping fists.

Though an O'Malley spokesman says the campaign obtained a permit for the rally before organizers knew when Ehrlich's announcement was scheduled, the mayor faced questions from reporters about the timing of his filing and the visit to Arbutus.

"We are campaigning all over our state," O'Malley said. " ... We are on the 'Kitchen Table Tour.'"

The tour took O'Malley to the kitchen table of the Hartig family of Arbutus - who opted for a chat with the mayor over a scheduled trip to Six Flags Theme Park. The Hartigs and their friend, Gloria Powell, spoke for an hour with O'Malley - who, with shirtsleeves rolled up, asked repeatedly "What's on your mind?" about a range of matters, from the BGE rates crisis due to send utility bills soaring to mental health programs and the homeless.

After O'Malley left, the Hartigs and Powell confessed that they had been Duncan supporters and that they were disappointed that he withdrew. But Kathy Hartig said she appreciated that O'Malley took the time to visit her home, and that though Arbutus is solid Ehrlich country, she's strongly considering bucking the neighborhood trend to back O'Malley.

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