Finding the winners in Jeffrey Thompson’s plea deal is not easy: In court this week, Thompson pleaded guilty to a rash of 2010 campaign-finance violations that implicated, by description if not by name, everyone from DC mayor (and mayoral candidate) Vincent Gray to bit players in Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential run. The losers—including Vince Gray, Michael Brown, who comes off as the slimiest politician we have, and the voters—are easier to figure. A roundup of who gains:
He admitted corrupting the 2010 mayoral race with $660,000 in dirty cash and secretly contributing more than $3 million to two dozen local and federal campaigns between 2006 and 2012, but he cut a sweet deal with federal prosecutors. In return for ratting out Mayor Gray and fingering other DC politicians, Thompson will likely never serve a day behind bars. Prosecutors waived the 18 months he might have served on the federal charges, and odds are he gets house arrest for the six-month term on the DC charges. Thompson’s goal was never to set foot in jail, and he might have nailed it.
The US Attorney finally implicated Gray in his three-year probe into corrupt DC elections. In Thompson, Machen has notched his eighth public-corruption plea from District probes, taking out three DC Council members and four Gray campaign aides. But for Machen to score a true victory, he and his investigators have to build a case based on documents and evidence that will force Gray to accept a plea.
“Anyone but Gray”
Democratic candidates for Gray’s office have already been all but sporting “Not the mayor” campaign buttons. Though Gray is not out of the race, and still has high approval ratings, his support in African-American wards east of the Anacostia River is eroding. Undecided voters will be looking for a new favorite among the leading alternatives: Muriel Bowser, Jack Evans, and Tommy Wells.
David Catania goes all in by declaring his candidacy as an Independent running in the general election. After a Democratic primary season that lacked leadership, inspiration, and issues, the at-large council member could bring all three to the November vote, the first truly competitive general election under Home Rule. He has the best chance of beating Gray one-on-one.
The Washington Post
Jo-Ann Armao and her editorial page look smart in their crusade against Gray. After Machen tied Gray to the corrupt cash, Armao pounded Gray with caustic editorials for three days. But will the Post’s diatribes and endorsement of Bowser knock off the mayor and make her the Democratic nominee? If not, the Post will look weak and ineffectual.
If Machen builds a stronger case in the next nine months, Gray might be forced to resign. Under DC laws of succession, that would make council chair Phil Mendelson DC’s first white mayor, temporarily.
Mayor Vince Gray’s campaign manager and self-declared election cop Chuck Thies has a new demand for the District’s mayoral election: No more nicknames. Thies is apparently sick of being asked about “Uncle Earl,” a name that prosecutors allege Mayor Vince Gray called businessman Jeffrey Thompson in order to keep his 2010 support Gray under wraps and that the mayor himself admits he used.
“When did using a nickname become evidence of breaking the law?” he says. “It’s a made-for-Twitter moment brought to you by Jeff Thompson.”
Thompson revealed the soubriquet on Monday when he pleaded guilty to hatching multiple election fraud schemes, including a 2010 plot in which he spent $668,800 to elect Gray without reporting a cent of it to campaign finance authorities. Sure enough, a fictional @UncleEarlDC Twitter account started up on Monday before Thompson even finished entering his plea, and some of Gray’s competitors in the April 1 Democratic primary are now using Thompson’s alias to attack the mayor.
In making their accusation that Gray had direct involvement in the “shadow campaign,” federal prosecutors at Thompson’s hearing said Gray and Thompson had dinner in August 2010, with Gray presenting Thompson with a $425,000 budget for get-out-the-vote operations ahead of his showdown with then-Mayor Adrian Fenty. According to prosecutors, Gray ended the conversation by saying, “Thank you, uncle.”
According to Thompson’s statement of offense, Gray and his campaign associates agreed to call Thompson “Uncle Earl”—Earl is Thompson’s middle name—to avoid publicizing his support for Gray’s mayoral bid.
Gray has not been charged with any wrongdoing, but in an interview he gave shortly after Thompson pleaded guilty, the mayor said he called the businessman by the name.
“I thought it was because of him not wanting to be seen as legitimately raising money for my campaign,” Gray told WRC reporter Tom Sherwood. “That’s true. But there was never any illicit secrecy associated with that.”
However, Thies says the Uncle Earl mania is setting a dangerous precedent. In fact, Thies suggests DC politicians and their associates only use proper names going forward.
“I’m afraid to use nicknames,” says the seasoned political operative, whose legal name is Charles Thies, Jr. “My mother is complicit in a crime because she’s been calling me Chuck for 49 years? Good lord.”
DC Council member David Catania doesn’t think being a white, non-Democrat will dissuade people from voting for him for mayor in this years general election, he said after filing his candidacy for an independent bid.
“This is a city that belives in the value of opportunity, a strong sense of fairness, and playing by the rules,” Catania said. “These are the values we all share.”
Eight Democratic candidates, including Mayor Vince Gray, are scrambling toward the April 1 Democratic primary, which in past years has served as the effective general election. But with another seven months until the real general election and more than 15 years as an at-large member of the Council, Catania’s entry into the race raises the possibility of giving DC its first competitive mayoral general election in 20 years.
“The others have talked a good game and good for them for having labels, but I’ve actually delivered,” Catania said about the Democratic field. Catania is a former Republican who left the party in 2004 over President George W. Bush’s support for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
During his tenure on the DC Council, Catania has run the committees overseeing the District’s health services and, since last year, its public schools. A video released by his campaign Wednesday morning highlights his involvment in keeping United Hospital Center, the city’s only hospital east of the Anacostia River, open. He told reporters that his school oversight played a major role in pushing him into the race.
“It was an incredibly important factor,” he said. “It inspired seven or eight landmark pieces of legislation. If we’re electing leaders, rather than administrators, I think it’s time for people to look at the record.”
Catania repeatedly referred to Gray as an “administrator” instead of a leader, arguing that Gray inherited an improving city from former mayors Anthony Williams and Adrian Fenty. That’s a charge Gray attempted to fend off last night in his State of the District address, but Catania, addressing reporters at the corner of 14th and U streets, NW, near several new high-end apartment buildings, said it fits.
“I think our city is growing in spite of the mayor, not because of the mayor,” he said. “The mayor has tended a garden that was planted by those before him. I don’t think any of these cranes are traced to the work of Vincent Gray.”
Catania, who created an exploratory committee in December, added that he made his decision to officially enter the race before Monday, when businessman Jeffrey Thompson pleaded guilty to financing a $668,800 “shadow campaign” on Gray’s behalf in 2010 and prosecutors alleged that Gray had direct involvement in the scheme.
“I’ve made my feelings known about the mayor’s shadow campaign when it was first disclosed two years ago,” Catania said. “I said he should have resigned then and I believe that today.”
A January poll taken by the Washington Post showed that in a hypothetical matchup, Gray had a slim lead over Catania.
Catania acknowledged taking money from Thompson in some of his Council races, but the two had a falling out after 2006 over city payments to Chartered Health Plan, a Thompson-owned firm that formerly handled DC’s $300 million Medicaid contract. But Catania has his own history with the city’s contracting process. Until January 2013, he had a job with the technology consulting firm MC Dean, which is one of the District government’s biggest contractors. Catania said his role with the firm focused mostly on its contracts with the Defense Department, and that he always recused himself when a city contract with MC Dean came before the Council.
“If anyone can ever find an example of where I voted to advance MC Dean or had a communication with anyone in the District government that advanced MC Dean, I’ll drop out of this race tomorrow,” Catania said. “But you’re not going to find it because it never happened.”
Catania also addressed his sometimes prickly relationships with his fellow Council members. In 2012, for instance, he got in an argument with Marion Barry that heated to the point where Catania told the mayor-for-life, “Fuck you, Marion.”
“We’re not cutting the crusts off cucumber sandwiches,” Catania told reporters. “This is about running a $12 billion organization, where the lives of 645,000 people depend on someone being honest and being faithflu to those values and visions. I’m not going to apologize for the passion I take to this job. I feel most of our citizens are outraged.”
Whoever wins the eight-way Democratic primary for DC mayor on April 1 won’t get to kick back until January 2015. David Catania, an at-large member of the DC Council, is officially jumping into the general election as an independent candidate, and will file his candidacy later this week.
Catania, who formed an exploratory committee last December, will give his first public comments as a mayoral candidate this week, said Ben Young, a former Council aide who jumped to the exploratory bid earlier this year. Catania, 45, has been campaigning citywide since he won his first Council election in 1997.
As a legislator, Catania’s portfolio has included oversight of the city’s health services and, since last 2012, public education. While he’s been in the exploratory stage of a mayoral campaign for three months, Catania’s sudden switch into full-time is well-timed with yesterday’s guilty plea by Jeffrey Thompson, the businessman who admitted to financing a $668,800 “shadow campaign” on Mayor Vince Gray’s behalf in 2010 that federal prosecutors say Gray was fully aware of.
A poll taken in January showed that in a hypothetical general election matchup between Gray and Catania, Gray would hold a 43 percent to 40 percent lead. Even if Gray survives the latest accusations about his 2010 campaign and manages to win the April 1 primary, Catania must like his chances even better now.
Taking a victory lap, US Attorney Ron Machen said Jeffrey Thompson's admission that he conspired to defraud local and national elections "pulls back the curtain" on the corruption of DC politics going back nearly a decade, and added that more charges could be on the way for the candidates who allegedly signed off on Thompson's activities.
"The people of the District of Columbia deserve the truth," Machen said at a press conference shortly after Thompson entered his plea in federal court. "Year after year, election after election, the voters of the District of Columbia were deceived."
In his tough-talking press conference, Machen went back over many of the details about Thompson's illicit financing of numerous DC mayoral and Council campaigns his deputies described in court, including the $668,800 Thompson admitted to spending on behalf of Mayor Vince Gray in 2010 and the allegation that Gray knew about the under-the-table payments.
Although Gray was named in court, Machen referred to the mayor as "Candidate A," but repeated many of the damning allegations revealed in Thompson's plea agreement.
"Thompson asked to be called 'Uncle Earl,' and the candidate agreed to keep Thompson's secret," Machen said, referring to Thompson's request that Gray and his associates refer to him by a nickname to avoid exposing his support for Gray's mayoral bid.
In interviews this afternoon, Gray vehemently denied doing anything illegal, but did acknowlege meeting with Thompson and using the "Uncle Earl" moniker. Gray has not been charged with any wrongdoing, but Machen says his investigation, which began in 2011, continues.
"Today marks a new day," Machen said. "This investigation enters a new phase to hold accountable all those who hid the truth. We are not going away. If you participated in backroom under the table deals with Thompson, I urge you to come forward now and own up to your conduct."
Machen also went through Thompson's spending $809,000 in unreported funds on a presidential campaign in the 2008 Democratic primary, revealed in prior cases as Hillary Clinton. However, unlike many of the DC politicians who benefitted from Thompson's largesse, there is "no indication" Clinton was aware of the support she was getting, Machen said.
Machen also addressed the fact that with the government willing to waive the recommended 18-month jail sentence for the federal conspiracy charge in exchange for his cooperation, Thompson could serve as little as six months in jail.
"It's a balancing act," Machen said. "We have an opportunity to lift up this curtain. What you learned today is the tip of the iceberg."
Machen said he has no timetable for how the investigation will proceed, but today's revelations come a week before early voting begins in the Democratic primary for DC mayor that features "Mayoral Candidate A"—better known as Gray—leading the polls.
Machen's office also released a statement of offense against Thompson, which lays out in more details the shadow campaigns he confessed to financing.
“Uncle Earl” has been calling the shots since 2006.
That’s the moniker DC businessman and political megadonor Jeffrey Thompson asked Vince Gray and Gray’s campaign hands to use in 2010 when he financed a $668,800 shadow campaign on Gray’s behalf, prosecutors said today as Thompson pleaded guilty to local and federal charges of conspiring to defraud elections.
Prosecutors also said, after a three-year federal investigation, that Gray knew about the illicit campaign financing and personally asked Thompson for his support, a revelation that comes less than a month before the Democratic mayoral primary in which Gray is seeking a second term.
“Mayoral candidate A is Vincent Gray,” Assistant US Attorney Michael Atkinson said before unpacking a detailed scheme in which Thompson used his businesses, friends, and family members to spend vast amounts of cash on Gray’s 2010 mayoral effort without reporting a cent. Thompson admitted to developing the shadow campaign in concert with Eugenia Clarke Harris and Vernon Hawkins, two longtime associates of Gray’s who previously entered guilty pleas over the course of the investigation.
The plotting commenced in early 2010 before Gray, then the chairman of the DC Council, entered the race, Atkinson said. According to the charges, Thompson, Harris, and Hawkins discussed Thompson's financially supporting Gray if he was willing to run against then-Mayor Adrian Fenty. But Thompson feared that openly backing a challenger to the incumbent would jeopardize his company Chartered Health Plan’s Medicaid contract worth $300 million a year. Thompson believed the business climate would be more favorable in a Gray administration, according to prosecutors. Thompson told Hawkins and Harris that his support would have to be kept secret, and that he should be referred to as “Uncle Earl.” Thompson’s first contribution came that May, when he wired $15,000 to Hawkins and Harris to purchase campaign materials.
Atkinson discussed two instances in which Gray met with Thompson. The first encounter took place on June 7, three days before a financial reporting deadline, in which the parties talked about “expediting” the fundraising process. Gray wound up reporting $561,342 on June 10, with much of the money coming in the form of contributions from people who were later reimbursed by Thompson, according to Atkinson.
Thompson also admitted to contributing another $82,500 on July 28 by wiring the money from his accouting firm, Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio and Associates, to a company run by Harris.
But the big payment came in August 2010, when Gray’s campaign was planning its get-out-the-vote operation ahead of the September 14 primary. Hawkins told Thompson the sprint to the finish would cost more than $400,000. Thompson agreed to pony it up, but only if Gray asked him personally. Atkinson said Harris arranged a dinner meeting at her apartment between Gray and Thompson, where Gray asked Thompson to pay for get-out-the-vote activities.
“Thank you, uncle,” Gray reportedly said when leaving the dinner, prosecutors said.
Thompson wired another $566,000 between September 7 and 14, when Gray beat Fenty 53 percent to 46 percent. He made additional payments after the primary, including $10,000 that went to a close family member of the mayor-elect, $40,000 to a personal friend for home repairs, and $10,000 to support the election of a union leader that Gray backed, Atkinson said.
Gray has denied knowledge of the shadow campaign since US Attorney Ron Machen opened his investigation in 2011, and he has not been charged with any wrongdoing. But he began his re-election campaign by apologizing for the “great pain” his 2010 effort caused the city. Chuck Thies, the manager of Gray’s current campaign, says the details laid out in court today should not be taken seriously.
“What value is there to what Jeff Thompson says?” Thies tells Washingtonian. “A man who has subverted democracy? This is a man you can trust?”
Thompson’s hearing contained potential bad news for another mayoral candidate, DC Council member Vincent Orange, whose successful 2011 campaign in a special election for an at-large seat was described during the proceeding. Atkinson said that Thompson met directly with “Candidate D” ahead of the March 10 fundraising deadline to collect contributions in the form of money orders from people who were reimbursed by Thompson. When the candidates in the race filed their fundraising reports, “Candidate D” led the pack.
But the details read in court could be the most damning for Gray, a fact not lost on mayoral hopeful Tommy Wells, who has run on a platform of ethical reform and was stalking outside the courthouse during the hearing.
“It’s worse than I imagined,” Wells says. “I’ve known Vince Gray for many years. I’m shocked.”
Wells came in fourth place in a pair of recent polls, but hopes he might get a boost from today. “It became a lot more real,” he says.
Former city council member Michael Brown was a frequent recipient of Jeff Thompson’s dirty cash, according to federal prosecutors. Brown pleaded guilty in June to taking bribes of $100 bills stuffed in a duffle bag and coffee mugs. That caper had no connection to Jeff Thompson, but it put Brown in the position of talking to prosecutors about his dealings with Thompson.
In 2006, Brown was running for mayor in the Democratic primary against city council chair Linda Cropp and Fenty, then the Ward 4 Council member. Atkinson told federal Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly that Thompson feared Fenty would disrupt his lucrative city contracts, so he supported Cropp and contributed funds to her campaign. Late in the campaign, when Fenty was pulling ahead of Cropp, Thompson met with Brown, asked him to drop out of the race and publicly support Cropp. In exchange, Thompson promised to provide Brown with a contract for $200,000.
In early September, Brown dropped out of the race and threw his support to Cropp. Thompson then financed a contract of $12,500 a month for Brown.
Fenty won the election.
Brown is the son of Ron Brown, former chair of the Democratic National Committee and commerce secretary under Bill Clinton. He was killed in a plane crash in the Balkans in 1996.
From Thompson’s perspective, Monday’s plea deal was a win. Sitting at the conference table and testifying before the judge, Thompson seemed at peace, for good reason. In exchange for providing prosecutors with evidence that Mayor Gray was fully aware that his campaign was receiving Thompson’s dirty money, Thompson could serve no time in federal prison.
The prosecutors are asking Kollar-Kotelly to waive the 18 months he might have served for violating federal campaign and tax laws. That leaves Thompson facing a six-month sentence for violating DC campaign finance laws. It is quite possible that prosecutors will allow Thompson to skip jail time on those charges, as well. He could wind up spending six months confined to his home.
“Uncle Earl” might wind up getting off pretty easy.
Sulaimon Brown, the fringe mayoral candidate whose allegations in 2011 set off the federal investigation that eventually implicated Gray and Thompson, was not in federal court Monday. Brown alleged that Gray’s campaign paid him to harass Fenty, and Gray promised him a job in his government. Brown got the job, but when he was quickly fired, he went public with his allegations, which proved to be true. When federal prosecutors investigated Brown’s case, they unravelled Thompson’s shadow campaign.
Brown’s attorney, James Rudasill, attended Monday’s hearing.
“They thought they were untouchable,” he told Washingtonian. “They were not.”
A new poll released Tuesday night shows that Mayor Vince Gray is still on track to beat a crowded field in the April 1 Democratic mayoral primary, but that voters are still troubled by the scandal surrounding his 2010 campaign.
The survey, sponsored by WAMU, NBC 4, and the Washington Informer, finds that while 74 percent of likely voters in the April 1 Democratic primary feel the city is moving on the right track, 63 percent would like a new mayor. And though 56 percent of Democrats approve of Gray’s job performance, 70 percent say they believe he acted either unethically or illegally in 2010, when his mayoral run was aided by an unreported $653,000 “shadow campaign” that remains under federal investigation today. (Gray has not been accused of any wrongdoing.)
But even with cloudy campaign ethics hanging over him, Gray still leads the other candidates for his job, although his nearest rival, Council member Muriel Bowser, is closing. The poll gives Gray the support of 28 percent of likely voters, with Bowser getting 20 percent. A poll released in January by the Washington Post put Gray at 24 percent and Bowser at 12 percent.
Bowser also seems to be pulling away from other challengers: in the new poll are Council members Jack Evans, with 13 percent support, and Tommy Wells, with 12 percent support. Busboys and Poets restaurateur Andy Shallal, Council member Vincent Orange, and former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis continue to poll in single digits.
The poll was conducted last week by researchers at Marist College and surveyed 1,138 by landline and mobile phone, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percent.
The poll shows a racial divide among voters in their feelings about the federal investigation into Gray’s 2010 campaign. Eighty-two percent of white voters say the issue makes them less likely to vote for him, while only one-third of black voters say the same. Gray is also backed by 41 percent of black Democrats, but only 10 percent of whites, while Bowser’s support is more evenly split with 23 percent of blacks and 18 percent of whites backing the Council member from upper Northwest.
Bowser has been picking up steam outside of polls lately, too, nabbing the Post’s endorsement last week, as well as a nod from EMILY’s List, a political group that backs female Democratic politicians. “Now we’ve seen another poll that demonstrates there are only two options in this race,” Bowser’s campaign manager, Bo Shuff, writes in an email.
But Gray is still the frontrunner, and his campaign manager, self-declared election constabulary Chuck Thies, is confident it will remain that way.
“Seven candidates and the local media establishment have been campaigning against Vince, yet he is still in the lead,” Thies tells Washingtonian. “We know exactly how to deal with that kind of opposition. Muhammad Ali taught us the technique. It’s called rope-a-dope.”
Thies might be taking notes from the Greatest Of All Time, but the poll shows that even if Gray prevails in the primary, he is vulnerable in the general election. When asked if they would vote for Gray if he is their party’s candidate in November, 41 percent of registered Democrats say they will “definitely vote against him” with just 44 percent sticking with him.
Those figures can only be a boon for Council member David Catania, who is in the exploratory stages of an independent run but certain to enter the race after the Democratic primary .
Council member Vincent Orange started his mayoral campaign later than most of his opponents and lags in the polls, but he’s trying to get an edge in a very important aspect of any political race—the campaign song.
In a press release Thursday, Orange says his campaign’s theme song will be Pharrell Williams’s “Happy,” a song Williams recorded for the soundtrack of Despicable Me 2. (The singer’s other recent work—guesting on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”—is better music, but probably less appropriate for the campaign trail.)
Orange has already used the song as the soundtrack of a video (below) recapping his black-tie campaign launch last month. But in an email to Washingtonian, Orange explains why he picked the track: “A $12 Billion government, 17 years of consecutive balanced budgets, a Housing Production Trust Fund, a future of projected surpluses, a high disposal income city, a Heavenly Father that looks out for my family and me, makes me happy,” he writes. “In addition, the HAPPY groove and beat is awesome.”
The pop charts have been mined by the other candidates as well. Mayor Vince Gray’s re-election bid, meanwhile, has adopted “Wake Up Everybody” by John Legend and The Roots, while council member Muriel Bowser likes to walk on stage to Alicia Keys’s “Girl on Fire.”
Council member Tommy Wells appears to be the only one to commission an original campaign theme. His theme, in the go-go style, boasts lyrics that fit his platform of clean, urban living and multimodal transportation. Chuck Brown probably never figured the genre he invented would one day include rhymes about bike lanes and dog parks, but it does now.
The soundscape of DC’s mayoral election isn’t limited to candidates. Longtime Adrian Fenty ally and frequent Gray critic Ron Moten finally released some music—previous political tracks include unforgettable titles like “Don’t Leave Us, Fenty”—with “We’re Coming Out,” a rewrite of Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out” that avoids endorsing any of the current candidates, but features an appearance by The Wire’s Anwan “Big G” Glover.
February is the month when DC’s mayoral hopefuls interview with the Washington Post editorial board for its coveted endorsement. Who will get it?
Historically, the Post’s endorsement is most powerful among white voters in Ward 3, who have faithfully followed the board’s call over the years, but its impact is felt across the city. The Post’s word was crucial in the election of Marion Barry in 1978 and, more recently, Anthony Williams and Adrian Fenty.
The Post’s influence has waned with its revenues over the years, but to the current crowded field for the April 1 Democratic primary, the endorsement might be especially important.
Voters are looking for an alternative to incumbent Vincent Gray, who is vulnerable due to a looming investigation into his 2010 campaign finances. And the winner of the primary faces an unaccustomed challenge this cycle: a viable general-election candidate in at-large council member David Catania.
It’s not likely that the Post, led by editorial page editor Jo-Ann Armao, will back Gray. The paper has published at least half a dozen editorials calling for Gray or his administration to answer questions about his role in what federal prosecutors called a “corrupt” campaign.
“It’s material to D.C. residents to know that they have leaders who will level with them,” a recent editorial said. “So far, Mr. Gray has refused.”
For his part, Gray has been running against the Post and other outlets, claiming only they, not the voters, are interested in the investigation.
That leaves council members Muriel Bowser, Jack Evans, and Tommy Wells as leading challengers. The Post will also hear from council member Vincent Orange, restaurateur Andy Shallal, and former State Department official Reta Lewis.
The editorial board has long supported Evans’s work as chairman of the council’s finance committee. Wells stands out for his devotion to education reform and for his refusal to take corporate contributions. That same purity, however, has impoverished Wells’s campaign and made it hard to compete with Bowser and Evans, both of whom have raised more than $1 million.
Bowser has the edge. She is strong on ethics, having authored the most recent reform law. And though she can’t rival Evans’s 22 years on the council, the Post endorsed her mentor, Adrian Fenty, despite his inexperience. Bowser, too, appeals to voters across racial lines, which makes her very appealing: The Post likes consensus, and a winner.
If Gray prevails in the primary, however, all bets are off. Catania then could be the first white, non-Democrat to get the Post’s nod.
With his time in Annapolis running down, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley finally made public what everyone has assumed for years: He’s going to run for President in 2016. In an interview published over the weekend by the Washington Post, O’Malley says he has started meeting with foreign policy experts and other wonky types to start the prep work.
Despite former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s increasing aura of inevitability, O’Malley says he feels pulled toward the 2016 election. “I have a great deal of respect for Hillary Clinton,” he tells the Post. “But for my own part, I have a responsibility to prepare and to address the things that I feel a responsibility to address.”
In other words, he’s tired of waiting for Clinton to declare—or was running in any event. In the past year, he has been at the foreground of several policy fights, scoring victories in getting Maryland to recognize same-sex marriage and adopt some of the nation’s strictest gun laws. He’s also taken those requisite trips to New Hampshire and Iowa.
But even in endearing himself to the left, O’Malley still faces a big Clinton problem. He’s not terribly well known outside his home state, and even in Maryland, voters prefer Clinton by a 7-to-1 ratio, according to a poll taken last March. He is also struggling with a fairly disastrous rollout of Maryland's health-care exchange, which is plagued by technical glitches and low enrollment.
Still, O’Malley has one accomplishment that no other presidential candidate can brag about: He’ll be the only one to inspire a character on the HBO series The Wire. The show’s Tommy Carcetti goes from the Baltimore City Council to mayor to the governor’s mansion by the series’s end, mirroring O’Malley’s political career.