HARTFORD—It’s hard to tell who is mentoring whom when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley are in the same room.
The two served together on the U.S. Conference of Mayors and both ran for governor of their state in 2006, but O’Malley was the first of the two to be elected to the position.
“He became governor before I did, but I was happy to join him in his position,” Malloy said as he introduced O’Malley, who is also in charge of the Democratic Governors Association. Malloy is the finance director of the Democratic Governors Association.
“The wonderful thing about mayors is there’s no ideology,” O’Malley said. “They do the things that work to get it done.”
Malloy said he will emulate some of what O’Malley has done in his state, just as he has emulated things Connecticut has done.
One of those things is marriage equality. O’Malley signed legislation allowing for gay marriage in Maryland, but anything the legislature passes and the governor signs in that state can be put to a referendum and the Catholic Church there is pushing hard for a November referendum to repeal the new law.
O’Malley came to Connecticut early Friday to raise money to help support marriage equality and defeat a referendum. Sporting a button that said “Dignity” O’Malley gathered at a private residence in Hartford’s West End where he was able to raise about $25,000.
A source who attended the event said the 60 to 75 people in attendance “knocked his socks off” with the amount of money they will send back to Maryland.
O’Malley said Malloy pulled together some friends to introduce to the governor because it’s likely there will be a referendum in Maryland on the issue.
O’Malley is the third Catholic governor in the past nine months—after Washington’s Christine Gregoire and New York’s Andrew Cuomo—to sign a marriage equality bill.
Not fewer than three days ago the Catholic Church announced it was appointing Bishop William E. Lori, 60, of Bridgeport, the next archbishop of Baltimore.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Lori said he plans to jump into the fray over the Maryland law granting marriage rights to same-sex couples.
Asked if he got any tips from activists in Connecticut about dealing with Lori, O’Malley said they didn’t really talk to much, if at all, about the outspoken archbishop.
O’Malley’s path to signing a marriage equality bill was much different than what happened in Connecticut where the Supreme Court found that civil unions were not equal and the legislature codified the court’s decision under former Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
“The common ground we found in Maryland was around our historic commitment to religious freedom, as well as our commitment to human dignity. It was those two principles together that really founded our state,” O’Malley said after the event when confronted by a reporter who pointed out Maryland is a much different state than Connecticut.
“Maryland has a middle state temperament,” O’Malley said. “We are a people who are more understanding of our diversity, religious pluralism, and importance of respecting rights equally under the law if we’re going to preserve our freedom of religion.”
When introducing O’Malley, Malloy who was the keynote speaker at last year’s Jefferson Jackson Bailey dinner, took about six minute to brag about his accomplishments over the past 15 months in office.
“We are the first state to pass Paid Sick Days in America,” he said to cheers. “And after Republican governors had stymied the Earned Income Tax Credit, not only did we adopt one in perhaps some of the toughest fiscal times, but we did it in a robust way.”
There also was some partisan rhetoric thrown around.
“Republicans know how to run things for their friends and we’re seeing that on display in the national elections,” Malloy said. “These are scary things happening before our very eyes and I’m enjoying the hell out of it, I gotta tell ya.”
O’Malley too took a swipe at former wrestling executive and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon.
He asked the crowd if they had watched any of the debates between the Republican presidential candidates.
“They’re wonderful to watch. They’re a lot like Linda McMahon’s WWE,” O’Malley said. “Lots of bombast, lots of bluster, but at the end of the day not really grounded in reality, are they.”
About 1,300 people attended Friday’s annual fundraiser that raised more than $250,000 for the Democratic Party. Republicans will hold their annual fundraiser April 23 in Stamford.
The only notable Democrat missing from the event was former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd who now heads the Motion Picture Association of America. Dodd did send a videotaped message, which was played before dinner.
The dinner was notable for an absence: Former Sen. Chris Dodd, a mainstay at JJB dinners for more than three decades, wasn’t there, though he sent a videotaped message to the crowd.
“My life has changed,” Dodd said. “I have a new best friend. Here’s George Clooney and I together at the Oscars.”