Martin O'Malley

Sex and Rumors of Sex


Maybe it's just the crowd I run with, but ever since I moved to Baltimore at least half the conversations I've had about Mayor Martin O'Malley seem to include the question, "Do you think he cheats on his wife?" His rumored infidelities are a basic building block of civic life here. They even inspired, or are widely assumed to have inspired, a subplot last year on HBO's The Wire.

Today both the Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post reported that Joseph Steffen, until last night an aide to Governor Bob Ehrlich, had been posting those rumors pseudonymously to Steffen has been fired, and Ehrlich denies any involvement in a whispering campaign. But not everyone believes that, given that O'Malley is a likely Democratic candidate for governor next year.

From the Post's report:

The rumors appeared to have no effect last fall when O'Malley handily won a second term as mayor. But over time, O'Malley said he came to believe that the rumors were spread to thwart his gubernatorial ambitions. About 18 months ago, he said he first caught wind of a story circulating about how he had fathered a child with a local television news reporter and separated from his wife. Initially, the mayor said, he believed the story would "be a strange phenomenon that would just sort of blow through."

But the story quickly became grist for an Annapolis lobbying corps that eagerly trades in gossip, and then for those in Baltimore social circles.

"I began to suspect very strongly that it was something concerted and orchestrated and sustained," O'Malley said. "It became a drumbeat and then was relentless. And the common theme and language used to push it on Web sites and the like were some of the things about it that made me feel it was orchestrated."

While I suspect there was a concerted effort to spread such rumors, I doubt that they began as a Republican plot to thwart anyone's gubernatorial ambitions. Unsourced reports of O'Malley infidelities were circulating way back in 1999, the first time he ran for mayor. That hardly means that they're true, let alone that the later tales of bastardry are accurate, but it does suggest that this problem was dogging him before he had a shot at running the state—and before the GOP had a governorship to defend.

Freepers respond to the story here.

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  1. And not to be conspiratorally-minded, but, anybody notice that the same day the Erlich aid story broke, Instantman links to a powerline account of a day-old quote by O’Malley that, in some eyes, discredits hizzoner?

    I’m sure it’s all a coinkidink, but, then, the only one I despise is MoCo Councilman Phil Silverman, ’cause he shut down my pinball place.

  2. Err, make that Phil Andrews. Bastard.

  3. I first heard these rumors around the time Marty was flirting with going up against KKT for the Dem nomination. He withdrew for whatever reason, but the stories never quite went away. My guess is that Ehrlich’s boy latched on to these and was trying to drum up the story to slow O’Malley’s March to Gov. Whether Ehrlich himself knew what was going on doesn’t really matter. He’ll be accused of knowing by the Dems and his denials will only make him look weak in his own office. This is a rather opportune turn of events for Marty, as it lays to rest the one skeleton in his closet that had been making noise. Whenever mentioned, be it in a Gov race or a future race, he can just point towards this incident and shrug it off, making the opposition look bad. This assumes, of course, that he manages to keep it in his pants and no more stories come to light.

    And for the record, barring anything unforeseen, I think O’Malley will easily be the next Gov in MD. I don’t think Duncan has a chance in hell of taking the dem nomination off him, and I think this incident gives him an extra edge he probably didn’t even need against Ehrlich.

  4. I do think O’Malley in a walk, however the Freeper in question claims he was just responding to rumors.


  5. I do remember that Paris Glendenning had relations with a subordinate maybe the gossip group mixed it up with Mayor Martin O’Malley. You know all democrats in Maryland are alike.

  6. “And for the record, barring anything unforeseen, I think O’Malley will easily be the next Gov in MD.”

    Gov. Ehrlich went on record claiming he is “sympathetic” towards libertarian philosophy. He is a fiscal conservative, and usually stays away from social issues. Ehrlich recently took on the trial lawyers in a bold attempt towards tort reform. He signed a bill a few years ago that significantly decreases the penalties of medical MJ. One of his biggest priorities is to build a badly needed interconnector that has been stymied for decades by the environmentalists. I think he is the best vote I ever made, and probably ever will.

    So, of course, he won’t be re-elected.

  7. Glendenning not only had relations with a subordinate, he then promoted her despite internal complaints, was known to travel frequently with her on the state’s dime for questionable working vacations, and then later married her, again partially on the state’s dime. The stink off this was something that Kennedy Townsend couldn’t shed and played a significant role in her losing to a Republican in a 2/3 Democratic state.

  8. And for the record, barring anything unforeseen, I think O’Malley will easily be the next Gov in MD. I don’t think Duncan has a chance in hell of taking the dem nomination off him, and I think this incident gives him an extra edge he probably didn’t even need against Ehrlich.

    I think you’re right.

  9. Maryland politics are so goofy. The fact that they still haven’t stuffed William Donald Schaefer and put him in the Smithsonian is definite proof of that, in my book.

  10. I just moved to Baltimore last fall and this is the first time I’ve heard anything about the alleged O’Malley affair. I guess the social circles of Baltimore don’t encompass my favorite beer and sandwich joint within walking distance – Pickle’s Pub. I did see O’Malley playing guitar at a festival though, seems like I cool guy. I hope he doesn’t get elected governor so he remains mayor of Baltimore. I wouldn’t want to have to go all the way to Annapolis to hear him jam.

  11. His band has been playing longer than he’s been in politics. I first saw him shortly after he was elected mayor, opening up for Shane McGowan at the 9:30 club. I was confused as to the number of elderly people there (who didn’t appear drunken Irishmen) some of whom were asking me after O’Malley played who this other band was. When I returned the question, asking who in hell that first guy was, I was surprised to hear, “oh, that’s the mayor of Baltimore.” For a few, not entirely separate reasons i moved from DC to Baltimore less than a year later.

    Look for him playing more shows than you can shake a stick at near St. Paddy’s day. And yes, him becoming Gov would probably cut into his touring time.

  12. The fact that the members of his band keep dying probably cuts into his touring time too. O’Malley’s March is the Allman Brothers of Irish music.

  13. Is there any sense that these rumors, if believed by folks, would hurt his career? It seems to me that the environment is pretty apathetic to such issues apart from the mere gossip factor. As far as influencing voting, would they have any real impact against the guy? I almost wonder if some kind of reverse conspiracy is more plausible, where his side sets up a rumor like this to gain sympathy for him as the voters rush to prove they are not influenced by the rumors. The smear-er may be a sincere (!?) hater of the guy, but whether he’s succeeded in keeping the rumors alive alone or not, who knows.

    Man, politics is a wierd world. Gives me a whole new appreciation for the level of Palpatine’s accomplishments. 😉

  14. O’Malley is smoking hot and a regular-seeming, gregarious guy (a friend of mine once, not knowing who he was, greeted him, “Hi, Hottie!”, and he blushed!). These rumors will follow him regardless of whether he’s guilty or not. He married into a powerful politcal family in Maryland, and he’s got a much better relationship with the press here than Erlich. Both of these offer some protection from these rumors, which, as noted, have been floating around for a while now.

    Also, Baltimore has undergone a fairly dramatic turnaround under his administration. There are still serious problems, especially the drug-fueled crime rate and a police department that is constantly in flux. But business is booming, some neighborhoods are improving. There’s a general feeling of hopefulness rather than the rank misery that I encountered pre-O’Malley. I’d rather keep around the city than lose him to Annapolis, but O’Malley is ambitious. He’s made some rather extremist comments about the Bush administration, but that tends to play well here, at least in Baltimore. Maryland still remains a blue state. When he runs, he’s likely to win pretty handily.

  15. Irish musician? Urbanist? Extremist comments about Shrub? Hit on by random girls half his age on the street? Improves downtown and the neighborhoods? Played the 9:30 Club?

    I might have to take down my John Kerry poster.

  16. Yes, I fully expect O’Malley to be a Dem golden boy and take a shot at the White House fairly soon (2012 in they lose in ’08, and ’16 if they win). He’s got all the attributes listed above and I think his one skeleton just got sealed up in that closet. It was notable that he was one of only two mayors to speak at last year’s DNC, the other being the host city’s. In addition to his local successes (though there have also been setbacks), his politically connected family, his stage presence, his charisma he appears to have friends in the right places that are grooming him for down the road.

    His band is decent, though nothing exceptional, but it offers him that regular guy appearance without being contrived. One time I saw them play was at the ArtScape festival in Baltimore and after polishing off a guinness in short order between songs, he smiled at some reporters near the stage and said, “don’t worry, it’s just chocolate milk.”

  17. The subplot in the wire is with councilman carcetti? During the season several characters mentioned that a white man would have a hard time being elected in baltimore, and as the show is pretty realistic, I figured it was true, but seeing that the mayor is actually white, I guess it’s not? I know nothing about Baltimore politics, perhaps someone could enlighten me?

  18. Carcetti’s character and career parallel O’Malley’s in several ways (including the possibility that a white guy would get elected mayor because the black vote is split between two candidates). Wire creator David Simon has repeatedly denied that Carcetti is based on O’Malley — and there are a few notable differences, notably Carcetti’s charisma deficiency — but it’s indisputable that O’Malley was a major influence.

    Anyway, many people think that Carcetti’s infidelities were inspired by O’Malley’s alleged infidelities.

  19. dante,

    The difficulty overcome in O’Malley getting elected was somewhat represented in how the headline ran in the nearby Washington Post.

    “White Man Gets Mayoral Nomination in Baltimore.”

    Note that in Baltimore, with it’s 9:1 Dem:Rep ratio, the Dem nomination is more or less the election.

  20. What no one has mentioned in this is that O’Malley is a crappy mayor who has fulfilled little to none of his promises, has exacerbated the incredible parking problems in the city, and seems to care more about his band/image etc. than with getting anything done.

    I’ve met him. I’m not impressed. He’s just another guy who says all the right things, but does nothing. I hope he loses – if not the Governor’s race – his inevitable run for the presidency.

  21. Also, I don’t completely disagree with the dramatic turnaround under the O’Malley administration. However, he might be responsible for the change in outlook. But the reality is that the boom in businesses is probably not a “boom.” Moreover, it didn’t hurt that the entire real estate market in B-more had bottomed out and the city benefitted by the national boom in real estate due to the low interest rates. Therefore, Baltimore benefitted disproportionately. O’Malley had nothing to do with it, unless you can argue that his crappy singing inspired investment.

  22. I get cynical about the local white liberals’ O’Malley-worship too, Handsome, but I can’t shake the feeling that whoever replaces him is going to give us a lot more to complain about. God knows we could do better, but “a lot worse” is more likely.

    I feel the same way about Ehrlich. I also felt that way about Norris, and it looks like I was right.

  23. I’ve only been in Baltimore about three years, so I still have yet to master all subtleties of the local politics, but to say that O’Malley deserves no credit for the economic upswing is as incorrect as to give him all the credit.

    While he may have had little to do with the bottoming out of the market he did take full advantage of the situation. From bringing in outside business investment, using the city’s ample parking revenue to revitalize some areas, encouraging investment in home buying and rebuilding, and actively courting DC residents to move up to Baltimore. I’ve watched considerable portions of the city grow faster than I’ve ever seen urban revitalization, anywhere, ever, over these past three years and it shows no sign of stopping. By contrast, my original hometown of Pittsburgh had the same bottomed out housing market from which to benefit, and they managed to run the city into bancruptcy.

    Of course there’s downsides for Marty, he was on the throne when $53 million went missing from the schools and he’s got a revitalized murder rate that bests Iraq right now.

    As for worship, one has to be careful to discern discussion of the man’s intangibles and future from an overall declaration of best-politician ever. I like what he’s done with the city enough that I’m planning to stay here when I finish school, furthermore I am amused to see an otherwise capable politician have a bit more real world background and charisma. If the democrats want to get back into the game, they might have to realize that some of these intangibles sell and Gore and Kerry were sorely lacking.

    As for the potential upcoming Gov race I haven’t yet made up my mind. While I can easily fall into the white liberal category, I voted for Ehrlich in last time around and Bush this past election. I’ll give O’Malley a thorough evaluation if and when he goes up against Ehrlich. Until then I’ll check out his band near St Paddy’s day and chuckle while I drink that he could be the next Gov of MD.

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