Bob McDonnell and Martin O'Malley Are Becoming Fast Frenemies

National Journal

Democrat Martin O’Malley and Republican Bob McDonnell govern just across the Potomac River from each other, but come from opposite ends of the political spectrum. O’Malley is crusading to end the death penalty in his state, while McDonnell favors expanding executions by eliminating the “triggerman” rule in capital murder cases. McDonnell signed a law requiring women seeking abortions to undergo ultrasounds; O’Malley championed a law legalizing same-sex marriage.

But the threat of looming military cuts and the region’s shared traffic congestion have brought together this week the one-time dueling chairmen of the Democratic Governors Association and the Republican Governors Association. 

The two governors spoke by telephone Saturday about joining forces to try to get Congress to reach a budget agreement and avoid the so-called sequester cuts. Both states are home to a number of military installations and defense contractors. “Governor O'Malley and I agree and we're working together to make sure that we don't have the defense industry hurt this badly,” McDonnell said during their joint appearance Sunday on CBS’s  Face the Nation. Added O’Malley, “I mean, all of us have to balance budgets every year.… in Maryland and Virginia, we've made the tough cuts; we've made the tough choices.”

O'Malley had more kind words for McDonnell on Monday when asked about the governor’s deal to raise taxes to pay for a sweeping transportation deal. "I applaud him,” O'Malley said. “Congratulations to Virginia and Gov. McDonnell for bringing people to a balanced approach."

In their first joint appearance on national television in 2011, McDonnell said, “Look Martin and I get along great working on things around the Washington area, on airports, on Metro and other things, and he’s a great Irish American, just like me.” Term limits will force McDonnell to leave office this year and O'Malley in 2014. Both are considered possible presidential contenders in 2016.

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