Martin O’Malley as a potential Democratic nominee for president

While the media and political pundits have all but anointed Hillary Clinton as the inevitable nominee of the party for 2016, there are two other people who I think would be much better candidates. Both of them have made moves that suggest that they will seek the nomination though neither has formally announced it. But then, neither has Clinton.

One is Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont. He is unabashed about calling himself a democratic socialist, which is a good thing. Sanders may not be a household name to the general public but is well known in national political circles because he has been in the US Congress since 1991 and in the Senate since 2007.

The other good candidate is Martin O’Malley, who has just completed his second term as governor of Maryland. His is not as familiar a name as Sanders but he too has a good record on many issues and is a good campaigner, as this profile by Ben Jacobs indicates.

O’Malley used that 1990 race for the Maryland state Senate as a jumping-off point. A year later, he won election to Baltimore’s city council. Then, in 1999, frustrated with the city council, O’Malley launched an underdog race for mayor of Baltimore. He got in the race with only three months to go before the Democratic primary as a white man running in a predominantly African American city. O’Malley ended up receiving a majority of the vote in the primary (tantamount to election in deep-blue Baltimore). He had a successful tenure as mayor – using his obsession with data to help bring crime down significantly in Baltimore – before running for governor of Maryland against incumbent Republican Bob Ehrlich, whom he defeated in 2006.

In his eight years as governor (O’Malley beat Ehrlich again in 2010), he achieved an impressive progressive policy record even by the standards of a liberal state like Maryland. During his tenure, extensive environmental legislation passed to protect the Chesapeake Bay, gay marriage was legalized, the minimum wage was raised, the death penalty was abolished and undocumented immigrants were allowed to receive driver’s licenses. However, there were a number of setbacks too. Maryland’s health exchange under the Affordable Care Act was an expensive disaster and O’Malley’s hand-picked successor, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, suffered a surprising loss in the 2014 general election – based partially on discontent over O’Malley’s tax increases. This meant that for all of O’Malley’s resume of success, he left office looking politically weak.

O’Malley has been quietly setting up a campaign organization and doing the kinds of things that US politicians must do but he has carefully avoided taking any shots at Clinton, leading to speculation that he does not want to eliminate the possibility of being her vice-presidential running mate if she does get the nomination.

My daughter worked as a budget analyst for the Maryland state government while O’Malley was governor and thought that he had a good approach to governing, adopting an empirical and data-based approach to decision making while pushing a fairly progressive agenda. He also seemed to know how to deal with people.

But neither Sanders nor O’Malley may be able to stop the Clinton juggernaut if the media continue to treat her as if she were the only reasonable candidate. Their only chance may be if her campaign self-destructs.


  1. says

    Clinton hasn’t seen a war she hasn’t voted for; another war-monger democrat would provide the continuity of strategy that Wall St and corporate interests would prefer. Clinton would surely please the plutocracy more than any other option. So Clinton it will be.

  2. doublereed says

    It should be pointed out that he personally lead the way for many of those proposals. He was not shy in his disagreement with the death penalty, nor his support for same sex marriage. He even fought strongly for the Maryland DREAM act. He didn’t say “let’s see what voters want” or some BS. All of these issues were quite controversial in Maryland at the time (SSM only won in referendum 52-48 for instance). It seems to me like he is willing to stand up for progressive principles even in the face of significant controversy.

    He has a very good track record. I’m sad to see so many progressives act so “meh” about him, because he really is a good candidate. And if you watch his debate with Ehrlich, he doesn’t take BS from republicans.

    I generally think people overestimate Clinton. She has name recognition, but that generally only helps in the first part of a primary.

  3. doublereed says

    I found a recent talk where O’Malley says he is seriously considering 2016.

    Interesting things:

    -he sort of blames the failure of Anthony Brown to win governor of maryland against a republican on the idea that he ran too negative a campaign.

    -speaks surprisingly frankly about why he pushed against the death penalty. He says that it ended up happening because the Appeals court struck down the procedure. So he took the opportunity to try to abolish it rather than attempt to propose new regulation.

    -speaks about climate change, and how it needs to be discussed in jobs and prosperity terms. That there needs to be a guarantee for coal workers and such that they won’t simply be left behind. Things like the vast benefits of green jobs.

    -talks about Genuine Progress Indicator, some sort of replacement for GDP based more on quality and sustainability of life. It sounds like it’s kind of like GDP minus environmental/social cost.

  4. Katydid says

    O’Malley may end up running for Barbara Mikulski’s seat. They’re both cut from the same bolt of cloth. IMO, Brown’s campaign wasn’t negative at all. Where he struggled (again, IMO) was being pro-education and the mixed-race child of two immigrants to America--both very serious problems in a state (Maryland) that’s becoming more and more anti-education and reactionary. When I moved to Maryland (the furthest south I’d ever been to that point) 20 years ago, I thought the state was filled with bigoted, uneducated proud-to-be-oppositional-to-logic-and-common-sense assholes. Little did I realize that it would only grow worse as the Teabagging fools got a toehold.


  5. doublereed says

    @5 Katydid

    I’m from Montgomery County (the DC-side liberal rich area) so I have no idea what your talking about with that characterization of Maryland. I know that Baltimore and the Eastern Shore have very different politics from the rest of the state, but nonetheless that seems like a strange characterization. Maryland is one of the most liberal states in the country, with some of the best public education in the country.

    Keep in mind that just because Republicans won governor, they still lost in wide margins of the comptroller and attorney general.

  6. doublereed says

    @5 Katydid

    Although, I was not following Brown’s campaign at the time. I was merely stating what O’Malley said. And O’Malley does seem like a pretty vicious strategist.

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