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Where Martin O'Malley's 87-year-old mother is working

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley may be in between government jobs at the moment, but he has one close relative who walks into the U.S. Capitol every day for work: his mother.

For 27 years, Barbara O'Malley has been answering phones at Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski's Capitol Hill office. That's longer than many of her fellow staffers have been alive.

The 87-year-old is a fixture in the Senate who often brings brownies and other homemade treats into the office.

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Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, with Barbara O'Malley
Photo provided by Barbara O'Malley

She gets in around 7:30 a.m., driving herself to work before the notorious Beltway traffic can slow her down. O'Malley's devotion to her job is practically a habit now. "Once you get into the spirit of doing something for your country you continue to do it," she says.

That habit goes back over 70 years. At 16, she got a pilot's license and served in the Civil Air Patrol during World War II. Her father, Joseph Suelzer, was the county Democratic chairman in Fort Wayne, Indiana, so politics was inescapable in her household.

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Barbara O'Malley, undated photo

Photo provided by Barbara O'Malley

"Someone knew me - oh this is Joe's daughter kind of thing - and offered me a job within the campaign of '48, Harry Truman, so that sparked. That was the beginning...then I came to Washington," O'Malley told CBS News in an interview.

She took a job working for Indiana Congressman Ed Kruse, and the trip east was a big step. "I'd never been on a train or traveled alone," she said.

After she married lawyer Thomas O'Malley, Barbara O'Malley stopped working outside the home to raise her six children. Though she stepped away for a few decades, politics was evidently in the O'Malley blood. Her son, the former governor recalls, "I've had many young people come to me over the years and introduce themselves with the salutation, 'I know Mrs. O, I know your mom.'"

And should he challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, Martin O'Malley is sure his mother "would be a tremendous asset on a campaign, and she'd be a tremendous asset in a front office." Turning to his mother, Martin O'Malley asked, "What do you think of that?" Barbara O'Malley rolled her eyes and retorted, "No way."

But since Sen. Mikulski is retiring at the end of her term in 2017, Mrs. O may be looking for a new gig. Though her hands have a slight tremor, her interest in politics - whether her son runs for the presidency or not - remains strong. Asked whether she ever thinks she's growing too old to continue, she didn't hesitate, answering, "How old do you have to be not to like politics? " At 87, apparently, that time hasn't arrived yet.

CBS News producer Carrie Rabin contributed to this report.

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    Julianna Goldman is a CBS News correspondent based in the Washington bureau.