Martin O’Malley made it official yesterday on a perfect day in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor where he announced for President of the United States.
Looking at the impressive launch on television I remembered being seated with him on the Clinton bus on the first presidential visit to Ireland in 1995. He was 32 and looked like he could still be in college but was already a city councilman in Baltimore.
Now he’s a presidential contender.
Even back then it was clear he was a comer, a fact ironically remarked on by President Clinton a few times on that trip.
Four years later he was elected Mayor of Baltimore and was bucking the trend of disappearing Irish big city bosses, not to mention whites not being elected in majority black cities.
After two terms in Baltimore it was on to the governorship and now an attempt to become president. O’Malley is fond of quoting St. Patrick’s Breastplate line “I arise today through a mighty strength” He must know he will have to exhibit that mighty strength to win an incredibly tough race.
Back on the Clinton trip in 1995 he engaged me in a discourse about Patrick Pearse and the Easter Rising that marked him for me as a different kind of irish American politician.-- one who took his heritage very seriously indeed.Throughout his career he has kept his Irish identity very close.
It was hard not to. His key advisor is Dublin-born Colm O Comartun a former Boston College academic who joined him when he was Mayor of Baltimore after the two hit it off.
Most recently O Comartun was the executive director of the Democratic Governor’s Association when O’Malley was head.
In a statement at the time he appointed him O'Malley said O'Comartun was "one of the most skilled and loyal public servants."
He has been probably O’Malley’s closest aide. He is always O’Malley’s go-to man, his loyal insider, there through crises and trials.
As a result between O Comartun’s influence and O’Malley’s deeply ingrained curiosity you will not find a more educated Irish American politician in America on Irish issues than O’Malley.
There was also, of course his rock band O'Malley's March, a Maryland version of “Black 47” in New York. he eventually had to dial the music career back for gravitas reasons but he often seems happiest with a guitar in hand.
The question now is whether America is ready to hear his theme songs. The odds are overwhelmingly in Hillary Clinton’s favor but he will be gambling that the ever fickle voting public will grant him a long hard look. He could not ask for more than that.