O’Malley in No Mood to Give Up

Saturday, October 17, 2015
Hanover — Despite trailing badly in the polls, candidate Martin O’Malley said on Friday he plans to continue to campaign vigorously in hopes of earning traction in the Democratic nominating contest.

O’Malley, the former Maryland governor, acknowledged his status as an underdog during an afternoon town hall forum at the Top of the Hop at Dartmouth College.

“I know that when a man stands before you with 2 percent national name recognition and tells you he’s running for president and it’s going well, there’s a fine line between delusion and imagination,” he said to a crowd of about 100 people.

If the first-in-the-nation primary were held today, just 1.4 percent of New Hampshire voters would choose O’Malley, according to a Suffolk University poll out Friday.

The same poll shows the Democratic front-runners former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in a dead heat, with Clinton at 36.8 percent of the vote and Sanders at 35.4 percent.

O’Malley described his many strengths and achievements as a governor and as Baltimore’s mayor, but said that one thing he isn’t good at is taking advice from pollsters.

“I kind of like tough fights,” he said. “We’re fighting for something worth saving — our children’s future is worth saving, this country is worth saving, this planet is worth saving.”

As a leader, O’Malley declared, he is a “man of action, not of words.”

He pointed to his work as governor to pass a living wage, and his support of collective bargaining as well as expanded paid family leave. During the depths of the recession, he said, Maryland went four years without an increase in college tuition.

“The more our people learn, the more they will earn and the better our country will do,” he said.

He touted his success in helping to push through legislation to allow same-sex marriage in Maryland and in increasing restrictions on guns, including a ban on assault weapons and universal background checks.

Nationally, O’Malley said new leadership is necessary to address the challenges facing the country. For example, though job growth is on the upswing, O’Malley said wages are lagging.

“We just have to return to our true selves and remember that our economy isn’t money, it’s people,” he said.

On Friday, he called for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, requiring overtime pay, investing in job training, infrastructure and innovation and turning climate change into a business opportunity.

Questions from the audience ranged from O’Malley’s stance on government surveillance, his approach to combating gun violence and police brutality.

Regarding the National Security Agency’s surveillance of Americans, O’Malley said the Patriot Act should be revisited and government officials should be required to obtain search warrants before sifting through Americans’ communications.

Dartmouth College student Paula Amaechi, who is from Baltimore, asked O’Malley how he would overcome partisanship and the National Rifle Association to reduce gun violence.

During his efforts to increase gun control as governor, O’Malley said, he sent letters to Maryland hunters thanking them for helping to keep land open, but outlining reasons for greater gun restrictions. Nationally, he urged the repeal of laws protecting gun manufacturers from some lawsuits.

To curb excessive use of force by police, particularly that directed at minorities, O’Malley said, he would reform the criminal justice system. Such reforms would include requiring police departments to report instances of excessive use of force, discourtesy complaints and lethal force, he said.

Though O’Malley tried to make himself heard at the first Democratic debate on Tuesday night, Clinton and Sanders held most of the limelight.

Even so, Dartmouth freshman Jonah Cohen, 18, a likely government major, said he found O’Malley’s closing statement during Tuesday’s debate to be “uplifting.”

“He reminded me of Bobby Kennedy,” Cohen said.

Cohen, an early Sanders supporter, said he now is questioning Sanders’ ability to translate his progressive ideas into policy. Cohen said he was glad to have the opportunity to hear O’Malley speak in person.

In addition to curious bystanders, the crowd also included some clear supporters.

Lebanon resident Lloyd Kvam held an O’Malley sign. Kvam said he likes what O’Malley has to say.

“I think he understands the economy is not just numbers that add up,” said Kvam, a computer programmer and registered Independent. “What I’ve heard from O’Malley makes more sense than what I’ve heard from the other candidates.”

Less committed voters seemed to be there to enjoy New Hampshire’s role in the election process, which inspires events such as O’Malley’s town hall forum.

So far, Bill Martin, a professor at the Tuck School of Business, said he has been impressed by the candidates who have come through the region. He described them as “earnest, smart, hardworking people trying to solve problems.”

“I had not expected them to be as impressive as they have been, so it’s a nice surprise,” he said.

After several selfies with members of the audience, O’Malley was off to a town hall event in Plymouth. He is scheduled to be in Laconia, N.H., Hooksett, N.H. and Nashua, N.H. today.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

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