Dem candidate Martin O’Malley campaigns in Jefferson

photo by Chris Henning for GreeneCountyNewsOnline
photo by Chris Henning for GreeneCountyNewsOnline

Gov Martin O’Malley of Maryland, a Democratic candidate for president, spoke to about 60 persons Dec. 29 at Prairie Blue in Jefferson. O’Malley is the first Democratic candidate to visit Greene County.

He talks about his successes as mayor of Baltimore (1999-2007) and governor of Maryland (2007- ) as part of his campaign. He spent about 20 minutes giving prepared comments before opening the floor to questions.

“I truly believe that we are standing on the threshold of a new era of American progress,” O’Malley said. “Yes, the challenges we face are great – the changing nature of warfare, a world that is beset by a refugee crisis the likes of which we haven’t seen for many, many years, the very real threat of terror here – but make no mistake about it. The challenges we face are not greater than the goodness and the courage of the people of the United States…. I believe that the only thing our country needs to cross that threshold into a new era of American progress is new leadership, faith in one another, and the courage to hold to the values that make us Americans.”

O’Malley named three tasks the country should take on concurrently:

  • Restore “common sense wage and benefit labor policies,” increasing the federal minimum wage above the poverty line, expanding Social Security benefits, instituting paid family leave, and a “sensible immigration policy” that would get “11 million of our neighbors” out of a “shadow economy” into full participation in the American economy;
  • Invest in infrastructure including not only bridges and roads but rural broadband, a skilled workforce, and funding to make college a “debt-free option” within five years; and
  • Address the challenges of climate change by seeing it as a business opportunity with a goal of having 100 percent green energy in the grid by 2050. That, he said, would create 5 million jobs.

To a question about ISIS and terrorism, O’Malley answered that the US should support the armed forces in the region and double the pace of diplomatic action. He said better analysis of intelligence and improved intelligence capacity is needed, and that the American people need to push back against the fear created by terrorism. He named fear of Muslims as an example.

He answered a question about gun control with a reference to “Christian extremists” who carried out the shooting in a South Carolina church and at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic. He said that in Maryland gun regulations passed while he was governor cut the number of gun deaths in half. He would support universal background checks, ban the sale of armor-piercing ammunition, enforce the current ban on persons found guilty of domestic abuse being able to have weapons, and more sharing between agencies of information that would identify persons ineligible to own guns.

O’Malley, at age 52, is younger than other Democratic candidates. To a question about being a “next generation” candidate, O’Malley said that because he did not grow up during the Cold War his thinking tends to be more open and transparent. He said his generation tends toward a style of leadership not based on “because I said so,” but on “because I can show you it’s working.” Younger leaders also have a better understanding of the “inter-connectedness” of people all over the globe with each other and the planet.

O’Malley first became familiar with Iowa in 1988 as a young campaigner for Gary Hart. To a question about changes since then, he said that town squares seem more viable, fewer farmers attend political meetings (he surmised because there are fewer farmers with larger operations), clean water has become an issue, and wind farms. He said he uses Iowa’s progress with wind energy as an example in eastern states.

He answered a question about clean water by touching on progress made in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Governors of the six states in the watershed created two year goals and milestones with action plans for agricultural drainage, wastewater treatment, storm water runoff and septic systems. In Maryland, storm water runoff was the biggest contributor to degradation of the water quality. Measurements of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorous have improved since implementing the plan.

O’Malley talked about racism, agreeing that it is still present U.S. cities. He said he is the only candidate with an agenda for America’s cities. His agenda includes creating greater economic mobility, improving workforce housing, and urging cities to take cutting edge roles in creating a clean, green energy future.

To a question about K-12 education, O’Malley replied that the goal in Maryland has been to improve college and career readiness. He suggests “reforming” U.S. high schools so that the last two years focus on getting students college credit or technical skills. He called career and technical education a “great opportunity” for decreasing income gaps in the next generation.

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