A 19-gun salute heralded the new Governor as Martin O’Malley took his oath of office in Annapolis this week. He delivered a short, but conciliatory speech, during which he thanked outgoing Governor Ehrlich for his service.
Gone was the familiar brash O’Malley. Observers said the 44-year-old mayor-turned-Governor appeared humbled as he reflected on his campaign theme of “one Maryland” and quoted Maryland native Frederick Douglass: “We are one . . . our cause is one and we must help each other if we are to succeed.”
In a state which came back under Democratic control this past election, Maryland Democrats were particularly pleased with their renewed power both at the state and the federal level. They were joined in the celebration by Madam Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Baltimore Native, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Southern Maryland.
When it came to the incoming Governor’s Inaugural Gala, the emphasis was on popular affordability. Unlike his predecessor’s bash, which cost almost 1 million dollars, O’Malley’s celebration was decidedly less pricey. Ticket prices were $50, half the $100 a head cost for attending Ehrlich’s festivities.
9,000 guests attended O’Malley’s celebration and were served by more than seventy-five local restaurants at stations spread throughout the two-story party in the sprawling Baltimore Convention Center. There was an open bar as well as first-caliber entertainment from artists like Kool & the Gang and Big Bad Voo Doo Daddy.
The event was black tie optional and guests arrived wearing everything from elaborate ball gowns to their Sunday best, and more questionable attire. The variety of fashion choices gave a hint that a broad spectrum of Maryland’s socio-economic class managed to make their way into the event.
The Democrats partied like populists as a decidedly presidential montage of the campaign was on display throughout the convention center on large screens.
O’Malley advisors had originally ruled out a performance by the musical O’Malley, saying that his band had broken up. But to the obvious delight of the crowd, the photogenic new Governor was beseeched to take the stage and sing.
“I wouldn’t want to hurt my gravitas,” O’Malley teased, but was soon on stage with a green guitar, crooning with his band, “O’Malley’s March.”
O’Malley promised supporters not to let them down, and the mood of the crowd was on the wild side. People were packed in like sardines. It was easy enough to find friendly faces, but difficult to find familiar ones and nearly impossible to navigate through the throngs.
In spite of the enthusiasm, concerns about frugality, both for the event, and for the daunting stage budget tasks to come, were evident. Instead of a ceiling full of balloons, there were Maryland Blue Crab Balloon animals on display. And seating was limited to the aged and handicapped only, forcing this intrepid reporter to retire early for the evening on sore feet.