Martin O'Malley, the Governor of Maryland, was unanimously selected to be the new chairman of the Democratic Governors Association on Wednesday, further elevating the Irish American politicians national profile.

O'Malley's rise to the top spot was assured since he had been the group's vice chairman for two years, but his decisive reelection last month deeply impressed party members during a season that had favored Republicans.

"Democratic governors will lead the way back to our party's resurgence," O'Malley told the press in Washington, noting that his own mission will be to help Democratic gubernatorial candidates win election in hotly contested races.

In the past Democratic Governors Association chairmen like Bill Clinton and Bill Richardson have used the positon to signal their interest in wider national roles.

At Wednesday's announcement O'Malley said a lot of hard work lay ahead and he argued that Democratic candidates should not run away from signature progressive values.

"Without a doubt, this is a time that will define us as a people, define us as a country," he said.

O'Malley, the former mayor of Baltimore, added that he believed the state of Maryland would benefit from his chairmanship because it would allow him to share policy ideas with his Democratic colleagues from other states.