As a blogger, I am a small fish in a very large pond. If you’re reading this right now, you are among the elite few who partake of my little rants and raves. I don’t have a big audience or a lot of influence. I’m just a big mouthed news junkie with a passing familiarity with politics and policy and a stubborn affection for actual facts.
But even small fish get to swim with the big fish sometimes and I had that opportunity a couple of weeks ago when I joined a number of other Maryland bloggers at the Statehouse for a sit-down with Governor O’Malley. And even if you don’t live in Maryland, you should want to know about that meeting.
For those of you who don’t know much about Maryland, we’re a small state in the mid-Atlantic with one of those wildly diverse economic profiles. You find mariners who work the Chesapeake Bay, vast agriculture interests, and the wonky DC suburbs filled with transplants from all over the country. We’re a progressive state and currently boast the best schools in the nation as well as being one of the first states to uphold same sex unions on referendum. Our unemployment is below average and we’re deeply concerned with environmental issues, especially as they affect our beloved Chesapeake Bay. Moreover, the O’Malley administration, along with the legislature is advancing pet progressive initiatives like being an early initiator of the health insurance exchange – O’Malley straight up told me Maryland would have moved forward with an exchange even if the Affordable Care Act had been struck down by the SCOTUS – and comprehensive gun control is wending it’s way through Annapolis as we speak.
Now, you non-Marylanders are probably making talky-talky gestures with your hands and asking why I’m bragging about this state. Good question. The answer is that Governor O’Malley is widely expected to run for President in 2016. I strongly suspect that his work in Maryland over the next two years will be a proving ground for his Democratic bona fides in advance of a primary race. This is a man – and a state – to watch if you’re a Democrat concerned with who could replace President Obama in the Oval Office.
If you want to get a nutshell idea of what O’Malley is focused on in Maryland, here’s his dashboard of issues. I like that he’s got a good sense of foundational issues. He isn’t getting fancy with tax cut packages or experimental policy initiatives. He’s focused on jobs, health care, education, hunger, public safety, and the environment. He’s willing to push on comprehensive gun control legislation. He also got an NCLB waiver which I like a lot. I have big issues with standardized testing as a means of evaluating schools and I’m interested to see what Maryland will propose to do instead of relying just on tests. I was also impressed with how closely he listened when the topic of paid maternity/paternity leave came up. I need to follow up with his staff to make sure they don’t drop the issue. I’d love to be able to say I had a part in making paid parental leave an issue in the 2016 election. Because its all about me, and my personal aggrandizement, right?
If you want to see how things go here in Maryland, follow @GovernorOMalley on Twitter for updates from Annapolis. It’s going to be an interesting couple of years.