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Irish Immigrant Is Nexus of O’Malley’s DGA

Tom Williams/Roll Call

Colm O’Comartun grew up on another continent, but he’s stepping into one of Washington’s most important campaign positions.

The Irish-born O’Comartun couldn’t have known that one day he would be executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, but his love for policy and record of loyal service to Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has him in a key role for the upcoming elections.

For the past eight years, O’Comartun has held various titles under O’Malley, but their relationship has grown to where he’s become the governor’s closest aide. Literally.

O’Comartun doesn’t shy away from the “body man” label, joking about his “clichéd utilitarian look” that often included multiple phones, a three-ring binder and “four days worth of supplies.” But to those who know him well, O’Comartun is much more than that.

“I’ve had a hard time figuring out how to tie my shoes the last couple weeks,” joked O’Malley, the new chairman of the DGA who described O’Comartun as a “traveling chief of staff.”

“He’s my link to everyone in my administration,” O’Malley explained, and he’s a “walking encyclopedia of individual elected officials and their backgrounds.”

Even though O’Comartun doesn’t have the typical profile of a political-strategist-turned-campaign-committee-leader, the Democratic governors believe he’s the right man for the job.

Colm (pronounced Col-um) O’Co-martun, 42, was born and raised in Dublin, where much of his extended family still lives.

His love of history started at a young age as he walked from his house to spend an afternoon exploring the Kilmainham Gaol, one of the largest uninhabited prisons in Europe, where revolutionaries were once kept in the early 20th century.

O’Comartun also grew up during a tumultuous time in Ireland’s history. 

“There were a lot of characters and a lot of party participation,” he said of the pervasive politics in his homeland at the time. “That led to some entertainment value.”

When he decided to go to University College Dublin, it wasn’t a complete surprise since his father was head of security there and he grew up in and around the campus. O’Comartun earned undergraduate and master’s degrees from the school, with a year in Sydney sandwiched in between.

After he won a visa lottery (insert luck-of-the-Irish joke here), O’Comartun packed his bags to live and work in the United States.

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