By CPLA member Robynn Singer-Baefsky
Martin O’Malley, 52, is the third Democratic candidate to enter the 2016 presidential race. His previous experience in political office includes serving as a city councilor of Baltimore (1991-1999), mayor of Baltimore (1999-2007), and governor of Maryland (2007-2015). Throughout his career, his progressive policies have focused on crime reduction in Baltimore, immigration reform, gun control, and LGBTQ rights. O’Malley represented Baltimore’s 3rd District in his eight years as city councilor and served as the chairman of both the Legislative Investigations Committee and the Taxation and Finance Committee. During this time, he focused largely on addressing housing and public safety and reducing property taxes. His biggest concern, and one of his major goals as a politician, was to bring businesses back to Baltimore. Crime, drugs, and poverty needed to be targeted and reduced in the city in order for that to be possible, and O’Malley ran for mayor with that objective.
As mayor, O’Malley implemented “CitiStat,” a system which monitored the performance of the government and how well it served its people, and took a zero tolerance approach to crime. His term saw the steepest drop of violent crime in the country, which he highlighted while trying to bring businesses and investments into the Baltimore economy. However, this crime drop was a result of an increase in arrests, underscoring a controversy in his current presidential campaign—many of these arrests were of young African American men. This fact was recently referenced after the death of Freddie Gray during the Baltimore riots.
During his time as governor of Maryland, O’Malley enacted CitiStat statewide, and continued to crack down on crime. He enacted many well-known initiatives for immigration, LGBTQ rights, and gun control. Regarding immigration, he enacted a bill that allowed children of undocumented immigrants to attend Maryland’s public universities if they had attended a Maryland high school for at least three years. In 2012, despite pressures from the Catholic Church, he legalized same-sex marriage in his state. Recently, he has announced his support in favor of the Equality Act, which would ban sexual orientation-based discrimination in the workplace, housing and credit accommodations, education, and federal programs. Concerning gun control, O’Malley enacted a bill that gave Maryland some of the strictest gun laws in the nation: Those buying a gun have to submit fingerprints to obtain a license, and gun ownership by anyone who has spent time in a mental institution is illegal. The law also bans forty-five kinds of assault weapons.
O’Malley’s performance in the first Democratic debate was not the standout moment he needed to introduce himself to voters and gain momentum in the polls, but he did have his moments. His strongest point addressed gun control reform, when he spoke of the aforementioned legislation passed in his state, and went head to head with Senator Bernie Sanders on the issue. When asked about the Black Lives Matter movement, O’Malley said that “[the] movement is making is a very, very legitimate and serious point, and that is that as a nation we have undervalued the lives of black lives, people of color,” changing his view from what he said this past summer at a conference (“Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter.”). He did apologize prior to the debate for his actions, and attention was not brought to the discrepancy. O’Malley has a lot of work to do in order to establish his credibility as a candidate and win the trust of voters, but for his first time in a presidential debate he held up well against the other candidates.