Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley debuted his 42-member transition team yesterday, a Democrat-dominated coalition that includes several labor, education and environmental leaders who spent the last four years of a Republican administration on the outside looking in.
"We are reaching out throughout our entire state to find the best men and women we can possibly find to do the very, very important work of moving our state forward," O'Malley said during a Baltimore news conference.
Featured on the panel are current or former officials with three powerful unions that backed O'Malley's gubernatorial bid but have met a cold reception from the executive branch during Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich's tenure: the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; Service Employees International Union Local 1199 and the Maryland State Teachers Association.
The labor groups were visible supporters of the mayor's campaign, providing him with well-funded get-out-the vote efforts that contributed to O'Malley's surprisingly large 7-percentage-point victory last week. Many polls and pundits had been predicting a tight race.
Union members hope the new administration is sympathetic to their goals. The service union is pushing to restore a law that requires large employers - notably Wal-Mart - to spend more on employee health care. Teachers want pension improvements.
Pat Foerster, former president of the teachers group, said she would not be surprised if several transition team members are interested in state government appointments. A failed Democratic candidate for state Senate this year, Foerster shrugged off a question about whether she wants to join the administration.
"We'll leave that to the governor-elect's decision making process," she said with a smile.
With Lt. Gov.-elect Anthony G. Brown at the helm of the transition committee, participants will meet for the first time Tuesday. Brown said their first priorities are to fill the top jobs in state government, craft the next budget and draft a legislative package for presentation to the General Assembly after it convenes in January.
With several steering committee members present - including former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Kweisi Mfume - Brown pledged a bipartisan effort in shaping the administration.
"This process, this transition, is going to be about performance, not politics," said Brown, a Prince George's County delegate. "It is going to be about finding those who exhibit a passion for service, regardless of their party affiliation."
But the group is stacked with prominent Democrats, and when asked, Brown quipped that he would leave it to reporters to find the Republicans in the group. It appears there is at least one: former U.S. Attorney George Beall, now a partner with Hogan & Hartson LLP in Baltimore.
Beall supported Ehrlich's re-election bid but said yesterday he welcomed O'Malley's offer to contribute.
"The election's over, and this is about governing and the task before him, and I think everyone in the state wants to have not just a smooth transition but a smooth administration in Annapolis," Beall said in a phone interview last night. "I'd like to help with that."
Democratic members include former Gov. Harry R. Hughes; state party chairman Terry Lierman; former Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs; Lucie Snodgrass, O'Malley's deputy campaign manager; and Karen White, the national political director for EMILY's List and former communications director to former Gov. Parris N. Glendening.
Community power brokers are involved as well, including James L. Shea, the Venable law firm managing partner and O'Malley finance chief; Richard O. Berndt, the behind-the-scenes player who sits on the boards of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Baltimore Development Corp.; and Dr. Steven S. Sharfstein, president and CEO of the Sheppard Pratt Health System.
Reflecting a campaign promise to remake the state Public Service Commission in the wake of a 72 percent BGE electricity rate increase, the committee includes Frank O. Heintz, a former PSC chairman and Baltimore Gas and Electric chairman.
Brown said the group represents "the great diversity that we enjoy in Maryland." He asked members who turned out for yesterday's announcement to introduce themselves.
Mfume, who was defeated in the Senate primary by Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, called himself a "U.S. senator," prompting laughter. He added, "Uh, wrong press conference."
O'Malley also announced yesterday that Deputy Mayor Michael R. Enright - a friend since he and O'Malley attended Gonzaga College High School in Washington - will serve as his chief of staff in Annapolis.
Enright, 43, helped streamline city government, supervising the mayor's CitiStat program. O'Malley has said he would implement CitiStat - which helps gauge efficiency across departments - at the state level.
O'Malley called Enright "tireless" and said "he's been instrumental in transforming our government into an open, transparent, performance-measured entity."
"These are the same principles that we will apply to every department in state government," O'Malley said.
Enright, a Bethesda native who holds degrees from Tulane University and Harvard, said he is humbled by the offer.
"I pledge to give it all my best, work as hard as I can," he said.
Regarding personal transition-related matters, O'Malley said he assumes his wife, Catherine Curran O'Malley, will keep her job as a District Court judge in Baltimore. He said the family has not decided whether they'll move from Northeast Baltimore to the governor's mansion in Annapolis.
Answering a reporter's question about the looming $400 million budget hole he'll have to patch, O'Malley said he was optimistic about finding a solution. He declined to say if a slots proposal would be in the mix.
"We know that structural deficits are only addressed with structural reforms," O'Malley said. "And it's usually not one or two reforms but a host of scores and scores of things that you do differently to save dollars so you can put it toward your priorities."