Washington (CNN) – Martin O’Malley will mingle with a handful of early primary state power brokers next week at a closed-door Washington fundraiser for a top South Carolina Democrat.
The Maryland governor, who has been candid about his inclination to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, has signed on to co-host the May 14 Capitol Hill fundraiser for South Carolina lieutenant governor candidate Bakari Sellers, a Democratic source in the state told CNN.
Sellers, a 29-year-old African-American state legislator, is the son of a local civil rights legend and an up-and-comer in state Democratic politics. He also worked for Barack Obama’s victorious 2008 primary effort in South Carolina, one of the four leadoff presidential nominating states. In other words, he’s precisely the kind of person a potential candidate would like to have on his (or her) side in a primary campaign.
But O’Malley will also have the chance to connect with several other South Carolina Democratic notables on the host committee, including former Gov. Jim Hodges, state party chairman Jaime Harrison, former Obama administration official Anton Gunn and Yelberton Watkins, the chief of staff to Rep. James Clyburn.
Al From, the founder of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council and a longtime associate of former President Bill Clinton, is also slated to attend the cocktail fundraiser, which will be held at the Capitol Hill home of Democratic political strategist John Jameson.
O’Malley, who has maintained a busy travel schedule campaigning for Democratic gubernatorial candidates this election cycle, will be in South Carolina later this week, attending his daughter’s college graduation and holding a campaign event with Vincent Sheheen, the state’s Democratic nominee for governor.
Vice President Joe Biden will also visit South Carolina on Friday, delivering the University of South Carolina commencement speech and squeezing in a fundraiser for the state Democratic Party.
If O’Malley decides to seek the Democratic nomination in 2016 against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, or Biden, he would enter the race as an underdog.
But at this stage of the so-called invisible primary, O’Malley has not been shy about introducing himself to early state power brokers. He’s been far more aggressive than Clinton in courting early primary state activists, officials and donors in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada – and in states that have competitive gubernatorial races in 2014.