Martin O'Malley in no hurry for his State House portrait

During eight years as governor, Martin O’Malley earned a reputation for tardiness in convening meetings of the Board of Public Works. Delays of 20 to 30 minutes were common.

Nearly three years after leaving office, in the same room where the board meets, O’Malley is still running late.

It is a State House tradition to display the portraits of Maryland’s eight most recent governors on the walls of the Reception Room on the second floor of the historic capitol. But on the wall opposite where Gov. Larry Hogan presides over the public board meetings, O’Malley is absent.

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the Republican who served from 2003 until 2007, is still the most recent governor to have his portrait hung in the room.

O’Malley, who keeps up a rigorous schedule of political appearances on behalf of Democratic candidates around the country, hasn’t gotten around to having his portrait painted yet, according to a spokesman. Nor has Judge Catherine Curran O’Malley, whose portrait would join those of other former first ladies on display across the street at Government House, the governor’s residence.

The former governor is lagging well behind the pace set by other recent governors. Ehrlich’s portrait was unveiled in June 2008, about a year and a half after he left office following his defeat by O’Malley in the 2006 election.

Parris N. Glendening, who served two terms from 1995 to 2003, had his portrait — notable for its outdoor setting and open collar— painted before he left office. He presided over his own “hanging” about a week before he left office.

Glendening’s Democratic predecessor, William Donald Schaefer (1987-1995), also had his portrait painted before he left office. But his wasn’t put on display until almost two years after he left, amid complaints that Glendening had kept the portrait in storage as a way of snubbing his arch-foe. But the two enjoyed a brief Christmas thaw in their relationship in December 1996, and Glendening offered fulsome praise at the hanging ceremony.

Elaine Rice Bachmann, deputy state archivist, said O’Malley is later than previous governors in arranging for his portrait. But she said it’s not the proper role of the archives to nudge former chief executives to get themselves painted.

Bachmann said there’s no urgency about Governor O’Malley’s getting his portrait done, but she said Judge O’Malley would have to move fast if her portrait is to be included in the archives’ planned book marking the 150th anniversary of Government House next year. The archives would need it by this spring, Bachmann said.

Maryland’s tradition has been for the archives to collect portraits of governors, first ladies, lieutenant governors, second ladies, treasurers, House speakers, Senate presidents and more. While some portraits are paid for with public funds, most recent governors have had them paid for by foundations set up for that purpose.

Once dedicated, gubernatorial portraits become property of the archives.

The beneficiary of O’Malley’s procrastination is Millard J. Tawes of Crisfield crab festival fame. A Democrat who served from 1959 to 1967, Tawes is next in line to be rotated out of the Reception Room and into a less prominent State House location when the next ex-governor is added to the wall.

Rick Abbruzzese, O’Malley’s unofficial spokesman, said he doesn’t know when the former governor and former first lady will get around to having their portraits painted.

O’Malley isn’t the ex-governor to wait the longest to see his face hanging in the Reception Room. The portrait of Marvin Mandel, a Democrat who left office in 1979, wasn’t put on display until 1993 — after his on-again, off-again conviction on federal mail fraud charges was finally overturned on appeal.

O’Malley’s portrait would hang just to the right of Ehrlich. Glendening and Schaefer would each move one position to the left. So would Gov. Harry R. Hughes, a Democrat who served from 1979 to 1987, and Acting Gov. Blair Lee III, a Democrat who exercised the powers of the office from 1977 to 1979 while Mandel appealed his conviction.

Mandel would move to the other end of the room, where the public works board sits. Gov. Spiro T. Agnew, a Republican who was banished from the room by Hughes after his resignation in disgrace as vice president but restored in 1995 by Glendening, would move into Tawes’ position — the on-deck circle to oblivion.

mdresser@baltsun.com

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