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Catherine Curran O’Malley, the former Baltimore City District Court judge and ex-first lady of Maryland, is assembling a campaign team to run for state attorney general in 2022, Maryland Matters has learned.
O’Malley, who resigned from the bench three weeks ago after serving for two decades, has begun hiring ahead of an announcement that’s expected to come shortly after Thanksgiving. She would become the second major Democratic candidate in the race to replace Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D), who is retiring after two terms in the job and 35 years in state politics. U.S. Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D) entered the primary late last month, just days after Frosh said he would not run again.
O’Malley, 59, has yet to speak publicly about her plans, but a source close to the former jurist, speaking on the condition of anonymity to talk freely about the political landscape, said she is “leaning heavily toward running…and is convinced she is uniquely qualified to be the ‘People’s Lawyer’ that Maryland needs right now.”
“Judge O’Malley has made hundreds of calls to activists and elected officials across the state since retiring from the bench,” the O’Malley associated continued. “They have been overwhelmingly positive, and she plans to announce her next steps within the next two to three weeks.”
O’Malley has already set up a state campaign committee, which enables her to raise money, and recently began soliciting donations through Act Blue, a Democratic fundraising organization. Neither the fundraising committee nor the Act Blue page specify what office she is seeking, though the Act Blue page says, “Katie Curran O’Malley is fighting for Maryland families. Will you chip in now to be one of our first grassroots donors?”
Given her husband Martin J. O’Malley’s long career as governor, Baltimore mayor and city councilmember, and an unsuccessful candidate for president in 2016 and state Senate in 1990, Judge O’Malley has a broad political network to turn to for help. Moreover, she comes from a long line of successful Baltimore-area Democratic politicians, including her 90-year-old father, J. Joseph Curran Jr., who was the longest-serving elected attorney general in Maryland history, served as lieutenant governor and spent two dozen years in the General Assembly
Dave Hamrick, who was campaign manager for Martin O’Malley’s presidential bid and runs a political consulting firm, RSH Campaigns, will serve as general consultant to Judge O’Malley’s campaign. He worked most recently as general consultant for Amy Kennedy, an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Congress in New Jersey (and wife of former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy). In 2018, he was the general consultant for the late Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s campaign for governor, and has also been a consultant for President Obama and national political director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Rebecca Phillips, who most recently worked as deputy political director in New Hampshire for President Biden’s campaign, has been hired to do O’Malley’s political outreach. Previously, she served as a development and marketing associate for Associated Black Charities in Baltimore.
Colleen Martin-Lauer, the Baltimore-based Democratic fundraiser long associated with Martin O’Malley’s career, will serve as chief fundraiser and strategic adviser to Judge O’Malley’s campaign. Her current roster of clients include Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott (D), Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr. (D) and Howard County Executive Calvin Ball (D) — and she was the chief fundraiser for Brown when he ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2014.
O’Malley has yet to hire a campaign manager.
While Brown has already rolled out some endorsements from current and former elected officials for his campaign, several well-known politicians are likely to rally around O’Malley’s campaign as well. National and state women’s groups, like EMILY’s List, are also expected to be supportive. Attorneys general in Maryland have only been white males.
While several Democrats said they were eyeing the attorney general’s race in the immediate aftermath of Frosh’s retirement announcement, it is quite possible that the race could turn into a battle between Brown and O’Malley. Former federal prosecutor James F. Shalleck, who has run for office several times in Montgomery County, is the lone Republican candidate for AG.
Brown was Martin O’Malley’s lieutenant governor for eight years, and while the two did not have a public falling out, there is some lingering resentment between the two camps over the 2014 campaign: Brown associates believe O’Malley was a drag on his fortunes when he ran against now-Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), while O’Malley allies feel Brown didn’t do enough to defend their administration’s record, robbing O’Malley of an opportunity to have his chosen successor prevail.
Even though O’Malley and the Curran family and networks have been highly successful in Maryland politics, the record is not without its blemishes: J.D. Merrill, Katie and Martin O’Malley’s son-in-law, lost a Democratic primary for state Senate in Baltimore City’s 41st District in 2018; J. Joseph “Max” Curran III, Judge O’Malley’s brother, lost a general election bid for the House of Delegates by less than 200 votes in Baltimore County’s 8th District in 1998.
And then there was Martin O’Malley’s first campaign for office in 1990 when, as a 27-year-old lawyer, he lost the Democratic state Senate primary for the 43rd District to incumbent Sen. John A. Pica Jr. by just 43 votes, despite the endorsement of the man then described as his future father-in-law — Attorney General Curran.