Rough Start for O’Malley at DGA

My latest Washington Examiner Local Opinion Zone blog post

With political aspirations far beyond his home state, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (D) will be judged on how well he performs his chief duty as Chair of the Democratic Governors Association: electing Democratic governors. So far O’Malley is off to an inauspicious start.
In what appears to be shaping up as the main gubernatorial battleground this fall in Kentucky, O’Malley’s horse in the race, incumbent Steve Beshear, has run into early trouble.

At least twice in recent years, Gov. Steve Beshear’s office called the Kentucky Retirement Systems to suggest meetings with two of the governor’s Democratic political supporters who were working on behalf of private investment

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The supporters were Mark Guilfoyle, a Northern Kentucky lawyer and lobbyist who helped lead Beshear’s 2007 transition team, and Jill Daschle, wife of the then-executive director of the Democratic Governors Association and daughter-in-law of former U.S. Senate leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D…

Unlike those previously identified, Guilfoyle and Daschle have ties to Beshear, his senior staff and other Kentucky Democratic politicians.

Guilfoyle, who was an aide to Democratic Gov. Brereton Jones, and his wife have given at least $61,000 in political donations since 1998, including checks to Beshear and the Kentucky Democratic Party. He has been a Democratic Party leader and campaign strategist.

In 2007, Guilfoyle led Beshear’s transition team at the Finance and Administration
Cabinet, where he got to know Burnside, the outgoing finance secretary under Gov. Ernie Fletcher, according to interviews with Guilfoyle and Burnside. Burnside then took charge of KRS.

Do Kentuckians still believe O’Malley’s statement that they can “trust” Steve Beshear?

In addition to Kentucky, there are three gubernatorial contests this year in West Virginia, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Louisiana and Mississippi are considered locks for Republicans. The DGA didn’t bother to mention these two states in an early April fundraising email.

Larry Sabato lists West Virginia special election a toss-up and considers incumbent Democrat acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin vulnerable. Tomblin assumed the governorship after former governor Joe Manchin won a special U.S. Senate election after the death of Robert Byrd. Early polling has Tomblin leading Republican Bill Maloney, but the same poll also shows a nine-point drop in his approval rating.

In late March, O’Malley appeared to be recruiting Fayard, a former Lt. Governor candidate, to challenge Louisiana’s incumbent Bobby Jindal (R), until news surfaced of ugly comments she made about Republicans at a Democratic banquet

“I hate Republicans. I hate Republicans. They are cruel and destructive. They eat their young. They don’t think. They don’t allow people to think. They are bullies.”

In fact, this isn’t too far away from the rhetorical Republican straw men O’Malley often sets ablaze.

Fayard has now announced she’s running for Louisiana Secretary of State.

O’Malley appears more interested in the press he receives from picking fights with Republican governors Chris Christie in New Jersey and Scott Walker in Wisconsin, than fulfilling his duty as DGA chief. Not necessarily the best contrast to be drawing, given Christie and Walker stand up for taxpayers in their states against powerful public sector employee unions, whereas O’Malley has gone out of his way to criticize his own budget in order to placate the same powerful special interests in Maryland.

If West Virginia and especially Kentucky go Republican, O’Malley’s national ambitions will be diminished. However, given his irresponsible stewardship of Maryland, that may not be such a bad thing.

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