Martin O'Malley
O'Malley Sees 'Real Shot' for Maryland Marriage Measure

By Julie Bolcer

Originally published on Advocate.com November 01 2012 1:42 PM ET

Gov. Martin O’Malley said the campaign to uphold the marriage equality law in Maryland has a “real shot at prevailing” in a referendum next week, but the effort still needs to raise about $400,000 to fight an anticipated “last-minute infusion” from opponents led by the National Organization for Marriage.

O’Malley spoke with reporters on a conference call Wednesday night, six days before his state could become the first to approve marriage equality in a public vote, or else join more than 30 states that have defeated the issue on the ballot. The governor said he believed the campaign is in “good shape” based on recent fund-raising, a number of high-profile supporters, and most polls.

“The bottom line is this. We’re doing well,” he said. “We need to continue to work hard. We have a real shot at prevailing here.”

The governor said Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the coalition working to approve the measure known as Question 6, has raised around $1.5 million in the past few weeks since it filed its first fund-raising report October 12. That initial filing showed around $3.2 million in contributions for a campaign that has said it would need at least $5 million to win. 

“We still have a money need,” said O’Malley. “We need to raise probably about another $400,000 in order to combat the last-minute push from the other side.”

Opponents of Question 6 working under the Maryland Marriage Alliance coalition have raised around $1.7 million based on the latest reports, with the largest contribution coming from NOM at $400,000. While opponents trail proponents in fund-raising by more than two to one, the governor said he expected NOM to direct an unpredictable amount of money to finance an “increasingly false and fear-based message” in television ads during the final days of the campaign.

One such ad claims that a marriage equality law would lead to children being taught about same-sex relationships in schools. The commercial is also playing in Maine, Minnesota, and Washington, the three other states facing marriage-related initiatives.

“They’re not unusual,” said O’Malley. “They’re the same ads you’ve seen in other states, ads that even some of those who ran the ads admitted were false.”

The governor thanked New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, a graduate and major benefactor of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who he said thinks of Maryland “like a second home.” Bloomberg contributed $250,000 to the campaign last month, the first of the four states to receive his support.

O’Malley also mentioned support form the editorial boards of The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun, in addition to endorsements from President Barack Obama, Congressman Elijah Cummings, former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, and actor Brad Pitt, who this week contributed $100,000 to the campaigns in the four states. The governor said an endorsement from Prince George’s County executive Rushern Baker, who leads a heavily Democratic area with a large population, would help the get-out-the-vote effort, which hinges on driving Democrats to the polls in the solidly blue state.

“When it comes to the ballot question, the opposition to this actually came from one wing of the Republican Party in western Maryland, and all of these were measures that were supported by the Democratic legislature,” he said.

Recent polls, including surveys from The Washington Post and Goucher College, have shown that a majority of Marylanders favor Question 6, but a poll this past weekend from The Baltimore Sun found the measure in a dead heat, with 47% opposed and 46% in support. The survey indicated that African-Americans, a key constituency in Maryland, have increased their opposition to 50%, compared to late September, when another Sun poll found for the first time that a majority of black voters supported Question 6. Some analysts attributed the change to TV advertisements from the opposition targeting African-Americans.

Asked about the Sun poll by The Advocate, O’Malley called it an “outlier” compared to other surveys that generally measure support for Question 6 around 50%-52% and opposition around 40%-41%. He said Marylanders for Marriage Equality continues to air “some really good commercials” with a message “that’s being received well” by African-American voters. One new ad released over the weekend features an African-American public school teacher who refutes the claims that teachers would be forced talk about same-sex relationships in the curriculum.

Josh Levin, the campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, added that the Sun poll asked voters whether same-sex marriage should be “legal or illegal,” which is different wording than the ballot measure, which asks if “they want to allow gay and lesbian couples to get a civil marriage license,” he said.

“We’ve always expected this race to tighten up, and what we’ve always said is that we expect this to be a very close race, which is why we're asking so much of our volunteers and our supporters both in terms of the fund-raising and the volunteering on the ground,” said Levin.

In addition to raising the last bit of money to keep TV ads on the air, O’Malley and Levin said the campaign is focused on get-out-the-vote operations including phone banks, canvassing this final weekend, and recruiting volunteers for Election Day. Voters who support Question 6 but might not otherwise cast ballots are being prioritized, particularly as the state recovers from Hurricane Sandy.

O’Malley said that early voting, which had been suspended because of the storm, has resumed with extended hours from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. The polls will also be open an extra day this Friday.

“The lines are enthusiastic and long,” he said. “People are anxious to cast their vote.”