With a productive General Assembly session behind him, Gov. Martin O'Malley said Wednesday that he will use the second half of the year to consider whether to run for the White House.
"I need to be spending a lot more energy and time giving serious consideration and preparation to what -- if anything -- I might have to offer should I decide to run for president in 2016," O'Malley said during a wide-ranging interview with editors of The Baltimore Sun.
O'Malley has typically demurred from answering questions about his potential candidacy, though it has been the subject of news articles and rampant political speculation both in and outside of Maryland.
"It's the worst-kept secret in Annapolis," said House Republican leader Anthony J. O'Donnell, accusing the governor of spending "his legislative session paving the way for his liberal platform."
The governor, a two-term Democrat, will leave office under term limits in Jan. 2015. On Wednesday, he said he needs to give "the time, the thought, the brain power necessary to give the serious consideration" to running for the presidency.
During the General Assembly session that ended Monday, lawmakers passed O'Malley's bills to repeal the death penalty, enact some of the nation's toughest gun laws, create subsidies for offshore wind energy and raise the tax on gasoline. He previously won legislation legalizing same-sex marriage and granting in-state tuition to some residents in the country illegally.
In the interview, he defended his legislative accomplishments as "doing the things that work" for Maryland and not a set of liberal resume-building policies. He said he sees himself as a "performance-driven progressive."
He pointed out that the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops supports immigration reform, death penalty repeal and gun safety laws.
"It doesn't make them liberal outliers," O'Malley said, later adding, "More important than the labels of the past, I think, is whether policies are working in the present."
Republican Sen. E.J. Pipkin, the Senate minority leader, said that while O'Malley may find support for his policies in Democratic-leaning Maryland, "I'm not sure whether the rest of the country is ready for tax-and-spend on steroids."
O'Malley, while acknowledging that he will devote some time to considering his political future outside Maryland, said that he is far from finished governing from the State House.
"The next 20 months of our administration could be the most effective," O'Malley said. "Political wisdom is that nothing much gets done in the last two years, but I think that was true up until we started getting a lot of stuff done."
On other topics, O'Malley said:
-- He will decide on a case-by-case what to do with the five men sentenced to death row in Maryland now that the legislature has repealed the death penalty for future crimes. "Each of the lives that were taken warrants individual consideration," O'Malley said of the five cases.
-- His decision to earmark $300,000 to help universities faced with decisions about men's and women's athletics is a temporary fix, and the university system needs to address problems meeting Title IX rules for gender equity. O'Malley had proposed using the money to help save the Towson University men's baseball program. "This is a bit of a Band-Aid solution for the here and now," he said.
-- He supported legislation giving Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III greater authority over the county school system, and would back Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake if she were to seek increased power. It's "very important for parents to know which of us to vote against when the schools aren't improving," O'Malley said. Rawlings-Blake declined to comment on the offer.