In the summer of 2000, Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley appeared on the cover of the Democratic Leadership Council’s magazine. A decade later, O’Malley was re-elected to a second term as governor of Maryland and is the new chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.
O’Malley was one of the “100 new Democrats who are changing the face of the party” highlighted by the DLC more than 10 years ago.
Some of these “new Democrats” have made their mark over the last 10 years but not in the way folks inside the Beltway might think. The state and local officials on the centrist group’s list have gravitated toward executive positions rather than legislative offices over the last decade. And only a few of them have landed in jail.
DLC officials considered the “100 to watch” list to be an effort to find the next generation of leaders in the Democratic Party to carry on the legacy of “Clintonism,” DLC co-founder Al From said. He admits there were a few “wrong guesses.”
From told Roll Call in a recent interview that their “new Democrat philosophy is more attuned to governing and less attuned to taking a position.”
“A lot of stars chose to go into the executive arena because they thought they could get more done,” he said.
For example, then-state Treasurer Jack Markell also made the list before he became Delaware’s governor and chairman of the DGA. O’Malley and Markell are two of eight Democrats on the list to be elected governor since its publication.
Then-Attorney General Mike Easley served two terms as governor of North Carolina while then-state Treasurer Bob Holden was elected governor of Missouri but lost re-election in the Democratic primary to future Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Arizona’s Janet Napolitano, Kansas’ Kathleen Sebelius and New York’s Eliot Spitzer also ascended to the governorship in the past 10 years while longtime Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy was just elected governor of Connecticut.
Now, Napolitano and Sebelius have national influence as part of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet along with United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who made the list when he was the mayor of Dallas. Former state legislators Chris Cummiskey in Arizona and Antonio Riley in Wisconsin appeared on the top 100 list and also served in the Obama administration.
Another dozen Democrats on the list ran for governor unsuccessfully including Georgia’s Thurbert Baker, California’s Phil Angelides, Alaska’s Ethan Berkowitz, Oregon’s Bill Bradbury, Maryland’s Doug Duncan, Oklahoma’s Drew Edmondson, Illinois’ Dan Hynes, New York’s Carl McCall, Kentucky’s Jonathan Miller, Georgia’s Mark Taylor and Maryland’s Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ended a brief flirtation with a gubernatorial bid in California last fall, but he ran for lieutenant governor instead. He won and will be headed to Sacramento to serve in that position in January.
Townsend re-emerged recently as head of a new Democratic group, American Bridge, which is meant to counter the rise of cash-fueled outside Republican groups. It won’t be a surprise if Newsom, Kentucky Finance Secretary Jonathan Miller and Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler govern their states one day.
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