Martin O'Malley commanded attention yesterday in the ornate State House conference room, whirling around to take photos with congressmen and campaign fundraisers in the minutes before he was to be sworn in as governor.
But it was hard not to notice 8-year-old William, the third of four O'Malley children and one who appears to have inherited many of his father's political skills.
As he moves around the room, wearing a light-brown sport jacket, he holds a cup of hot chocolate in one hand, balancing it from the bottom with the other. Occasionally William is stopped by a well-wisher, with whom he chats briefly before giving a pat on the shoulder and moving on his way.
During the campaign, opponents accused O'Malley of exploiting his elder son, saying his star appearance in a campaign commercial was a political ploy. But anyone who saw William blowing kisses to the crowd from the Senate dais yesterday knows that the kid has the potential to steal some of the spotlight from his father.
If yesterday's inauguration is any guide, children will be a visible feature of the O'Malley-Brown administration. The governor and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown speak often and enthusiastically about their children, and include them in many events.
O'Malley's big day, however, started out solo.
"Martin got up real early," said his wife, Katie Curran O'Malley. "The kids and I slept in."
Her husband rose about 6:15 a.m., she said, then headed to a prayer breakfast in Prince George's County to thank hundreds of supporters, many from the religious community. There, he recited St. Patrick's Breastplate, a prayer seeking God's protection that he told the crowd he recites quietly each morning.
"I arise today through a mighty strength, through the invocation of the Trinity, the belief in the threeness, through the confession in the one Creator of creation," he said, speaking without notes. "Speed of lightning, roar of fire and depth of sea, God's strength on this day will pilot me."
Many nodded along, nudging each other with approving smiles.
"By being here this morning, all of you are helping Anthony [Brown] and I to be re-centered on this day for a new Maryland," O'Malley said.
"It inspired me," said Gorgette Green-Hodnett, 38, a member of the Fort Foote Baptist Church Gospel Choir, which performed at the event. "He talked about foundation. If his foundation is to start each with meditation, that makes me feel good."
O'Malley met up with Katie, William, daughters Grace, 16, and Tara, 15, and 4-year-old Jack -- just after his 10 a.m. arrival at Government House, their new home in Annapolis. Katie O'Malley gave a tour to one of her sisters, asking her opinion about furniture placement and showing the room she had picked as her office.
"I want to move in as soon as possible," she said later. "The sooner the better."
When it was time to cross the street to the State House for the swearing-in, there was a brief delay to tie Jack's shoe. O'Malley knelt down and tied two loops on his youngest's left shoe -- Jack was wearing a new pair, O'Malley explained -- and scooped the child into his arms as they ascended the marble staircase to a private reception.
The concentrated power in the Governor's Reception Room was impressive -- Maryland's congressional delegation; state legislators and county executives from across the region; Fox News personality Greta Van Susteren and her husband, John P. Coale, who helped O'Malley's campaign with a sizable loan; and Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
"I'm here because Martin is a rising star in the Democratic Party, and so is Anthony Brown. Maryland desperately needed a breath of fresh air, and they got one," Dean said.
The former presidential candidate's presence was of little consequence to Jack and other children, who darted between the legs of dignitaries and chased one another from wall to wall. At one point, Jack bumped into William, almost spilling the hot chocolate.
O'Malley insiders have become accustomed to William's presence -- they saw him regularly at City Hall in Baltimore, and he often answered phones at campaign headquarters in Canton. He attended a Board of Estimates meeting in July and took questions from reporters during a news conference.
William was one of two family members spotlighted in TV campaign ads last year; the other was O'Malley's mother.
"My dad is really great," William says in the ad, in which they are shown playing baseball. "My dad works hard for our family, and he'll work hard for yours, too."
Yesterday, Brown's young son, 6-year-old Jonathan, got in on the act, reaching up and placing his hand on the Bible while his father was sworn in as lieutenant governor.
Playing tag during the reception tuckered out Jack, who, bundled in a blanket, apparently snoozed in the arms of one of his sisters during Dad's inaugural address. O'Malley joked that the youngster had heard the speech "one too many times."
William, meanwhile, was still going strong at 3 p.m., as O'Malley and Brown greeted citizens in the governor's mansion. His shirt untucked and shoes off, the boy seemed at home, zipping up and down the stairs and ducking photographers.
"My kids are here," O'Malley told Georgine M. Edgerton, an 80-year-old community activist from Mount Holly, "if you see misbehaving children."
The children weren't too tired to party, however. The whole family showed up at the Baltimore Convention Center for the inaugural ball and watched Dad jam with his Celtic rock band.