By Kate Froehlich
Special to The Dagger
Governor Martin O’Malley continued a statewide tour to announce his candidacy for reelection on Thursday in Aberdeen, and was met with both supporters and a few protestors at the Festival Park event.
O’Malley was met with a “very warm welcome” with “several hundred people” attending the rally, according to Aberdeen Mayor Mike Bennett. “There was a good crowd; how can you ask for anything more if you are a politician?”
The crowd included “a good cross section of the community,” Bennett said. “It wasn’t a bunch of Democrats getting together. There were a number of Republicans here, and folks that saw the opportunity to visit a sitting governor to our town.”
About O’Malley’s reaction to the turnout, Bennett said, “He was very thrilled at the welcome he got and grateful for the folks that turned out.”
Not everyone present was equally thrilled, as the rally did see several Tea Party protestors.
One of them, Al Reasin, said he was asked by Aberdeen police to stand away from the crowd on the edge of the park because he carried a flag.
About the incident, Reasin said, “A veteran was denied his First Amendment and freedom of assembly rights like a second class citizen.”
“As I walked across the park with my Navy Jack and Culpeper (correct spelling) DONT TREAD ON ME flag flying, I was intercepted by an Aberdeen police officer who ordered me to move to the edge of the park,” Reasin said. “He refused to tell me why nor identify who the higher up was who had given him the order. Note that in Annapolis neither flags can be flown nor signs on sticks displayed in the city or on state property; Aberdeen, who knows. So much for freedom of expression in Maryland, the Free State.”
Reasin said that he discussed the issue with an individual he believed to be an O’Malley campaign worker as well as a police officer during the event, but was unclear as to why he was asked to keep his distance.
Bennett said, “They [the protestors] tried their best to disrupt the whole proceedings. I would be the first to defend their right to protest or state their views, but to interrupt something someone else is doing; I kind of have a problem with that. [However], they didn’t get nasty; they just shouted concerns about what was going on.”
Former state senator Art Helton added, “They were entitled to make an expression and have their opinion. If I felt the way they did, I would have been a little more polite. They weren’t much of a distraction [though].”
Bennett originally proposed the idea while attending the Baltimore Orioles home opener with O’Malley, who took him up on the offer a week later.
“It’s always kind of a plus when a sitting governor comes and wants to use your city as a backdrop for any announcement they might have. It speaks to the relationship the city has with the state of Maryland and how we’re trying to keep things moving forward just as well as the state is,” Bennett said. “It signals us as one of the cities their administration thinks is moving forward.”
In Bennett’s introduction, he spoke about the benefits Aberdeen has seen under O’Malley’s administration, from O’Malley and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown’s support of the Base Realignment and Closure to the upgrades to the waste water plant in the city, 61 percent of which was funded through the slush tax.
“[We have a] really good working relationship with them,” Bennett said. “There are a lot of things that his administration has done for those of us in Aberdeen.”
O’Malley’s address focused on “’Moving Maryland forward [their campaign slogan],” Bennett said. “He talked about some of the things that had happened in the past [that helped Maryland during O’Malley’s administration] even in the worse recessions that most of us can remember. [He also talked about] the austere budget times, and the fact that we’ve still made progress and moved forward.”
Added Helton, “[Governor O’Malley] made it clear what the struggles were that he had faced with the budget and the economy and that he had lived up to his commitments that he had made to move Maryland forward.”
About the future of O’Malley’s campaign, Bennett said, “I certainly support him and am looking forward to four more years of him.”
He added, “The guy came into office and was promptly hit with the worst recession any of us can remember and has done things to keep the state moving and helped us come out of this recession faster than a lot of states around us.”
Helton said, “I think Governor O’Malley is going to get reelected. Harford County’s going to be tough for him, but I think he’ll do fair here. [He’ll] make a good showing here.”
O’Malley’s campaign manager, Tom Russell, was not available for comment Tuesday.