Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has been elected to lead the Democratic Governors Association through the next election cycle.

“We have a lot of hard work ahead of us,” O’Malley told fellow Democratic governors at a luncheon Wednesday in Washington. “Without a doubt, this is a time that will define us as a people, define us as a country.”

O'Malley succeeds Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, who served two terms as chairman of the association. Maryland voters re-elected O'Malley by double digits in his November rematch against Republican Bob Ehrlich, who was the state's governor from 2002 to 2006.

Maryland Republican Party Chairman Audrey Scott condemned O'Malley's appointment as a stunt to further his political career that will distract him from governing the state.

“With a historic number of Marylanders still unemployed and a budget crisis looming, I would hope Governor O’Malley would focus on fixing Maryland instead of gallivanting around the country, raising money on behalf of other Democrat governors," she said on Tuesday, ahead of his appointment.

"Unfortunately, it has been clear for some time now that Martin O’Malley is more concerned with furthering his own political aspirations than doing what is in the best interest of Marylanders.”