Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley – one of the nation’s most liberal chief executives for having raised taxes, abolished the death penalty and imposed sweeping gun control – stepped up Saturday to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.
"We cannot rebuild the American dream here at home by catering to the voices of the privileged and the powerful," O'Malley said.
"Recently the CEO of Goldman Sachs let his employees know that he'd be just fine with either [Jeb] Bush or Clinton. I bet he would," O'Malley continued. "Well I've got news for the bullies of Wall Street. The presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth by you between two royal families. It is a sacred trust we earn from the American people."
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley celebrates with his wife Katie and their family after O'Malley officially announced his candidacy for the U.S. presidency during an event at Federal Hill Park May 30, 2015 in Baltimore Maryland. O'Malley joins Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in seeking the Democratic nomination. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
O'Malley made the announcement from Baltimore, where he served as mayor, in front of a sign that read, "New Leadership," a likely dig at Clinton.
O’Malley was perhaps most known nationwide for the “rain tax” that was credited for the election of his Republican successor Larry Hogan in 2014.
The tax was levied on water bills against property owners for land with “impervious surfaces,” defined as anything that prevents rainwater from seeping into the earth, including roofs, driveways, patios and sidewalks. The goal was to prevent the water from draining elsewhere. The tax was imposed to help clean up Chesapeake Bay.
O’Malley was elected governor twice, ousting incumbent Republican Bob Ehrlich in 2006, and defeating him again in a 2010 rematch.
Clinton is the heavy favorite to win the Democratic nomination. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is the only other announced Democratic candidate, while Lincoln Chafee, former Rhode Island governor and senator, has formed an exploratory committee.
O’Malley, who seems to be positioning himself as a progressive alternative to Clinton, filled the speech with liberal populism.
“We are allowing the land of opportunity to become the land of inequality,” O’Malley said. He later added, “Our economic and political system is backwards and it is time to turn it around.”
He expressed outrage that no Wall Street CEOs went to jail for the economic crisis in 2008.
“How is it that you get pulled over for having a broken tail light, but if you break the nation’s economy, you are absolutely untouchable?” he asked rhetorically.
O’Malley enters the presidential race during a tumultuous time in the city of Baltimore, where he was mayor and once touted a tough-on-crime, “zero tolerance” approach. The city hit a 15-year high for monthly murders in May following rioting after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. On the other hand, the 38 murders in May in Baltimore is most since the month O’Malley was elected mayor in November 1999, which could arguably demonstrate his policing strategies were effective in reducing crime.
“Last month, television sets around the world were filled with the anger and the rage of the flames of the some of the humblest and hardest hit neighborhoods in Baltimore,” O’Malley said, his voice beginning to crack. “For all of us who have given so much of our energies to making our city a safer, fairer and more prosperous place, that was a heartbreaking night. For us, Baltimore is our country, and our country is Baltimore.”
There were protesters in the crowd, as one woman carried a sign that said “Killed.”
“There is something to be learned from that night. There is something to be offered to our country from those flames,” O’Malley added about Baltimore. “What took place here was not only about race, not only about policing in America. It was about everything it is supposed to mean to be an American. The scourge of hopelessness transcends race. It transcends geography. Witness the record numbers of young white kids killing themselves on heroin in suburbs and small towns across the country.”
Aside from shots at Clinton, O’Malley even seemed to take a subtle shot at the Obama administration.
“The hard truth of our shared reality is this: unemployment in many cities and many small towns across America is higher now than it was eight years ago,” he said. “Conditions of extreme poverty breed conditions of extreme violence.”
During his first year as governor, O’Malley signed a $1.4 billion tax package, which the Washington Post called the largest tax increase in the state’s history. It included hikes in income, sales, corporate, and tobacco taxes, as well as a millionaire’s tax.
While serving as governor, O’Malley also signed the Maryland Firearms Safety Act, which bans 45 different guns, limits magazines to 10 rounds and requires fingerprint licensing to purchase a handgun. A bipartisan coalition of 21 state attorney generals filed an amicus brief supporting a federal lawsuit against the Maryland gun restrictions.
O’Malley also signed legislation to abolish the death penalty in 2013, after having pushed the legislature to pass a bill in previous years. Further, O’Malley signed a bill in 2011 to provide in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants.
O’Malley has touted Maryland for its strong schools, which statistics have backed up. Education Week has ranked the state number one for schools from 2009 to 2013 during his tenure as governor.