Presidential Profile, Part II: Will Martin O’Malley be the odd man out?

Democratic presidential candidate, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks to the Democratic National Committee 22nd Annual Women's Leadership Forum National Issues Conference in Washington, Friday, Oct. 23, 2015. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Democrat Martin O’Malley, the former mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland, is trying to be more than the odd-man-out in a two-horse race.

Since the first Democratic debate, O’Malley has attempted to build on his performance. One of his first moves was laying out a comprehensive gun control plan. Certain stipulations of the plan would not require legislative approval.

Of the specific gun controls O’Malley introduced, the first was ensuring gun safety by making gun manufacturers interact with the federal government if they wish to alter the design of any gun.

“These include hidden serial numbers that cannot be defaced, micro-stamping, magazine disconnect mechanisms and other next-generation safety improvements,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley also hopes to hold gun dealers accountable in lawsuits, effectively ending an earlier law that protects gun dealers from liability in cases of gun violence.

Other gun-related restrictions involve increased police awareness of illegal gun purchases via an “electronic alert system,” and higher legal scrutiny of gun dealers, in order to make sure “that dealers who have their licenses revoked do not become unlicensed sellers.”

O’Malley is characterized as an establishment Democrat, but has several policy positions more liberal than the party platform. For example, he is against the line of thinking that banks are “too big to jail and too big to fail.”

“I’ll work tirelessly to eliminate the unique danger posed by the handful of too-big-to-fail banks,” O’Malley wrote in an open letter. “And while I’m doing that, I’ll finally bring real enforcement and oversight to the federal government.”

The candidate also hopes to reestablish the Glass-Steagall Act, which ensures separation of traditional banking and investment banking.

While O’Malley hasn’t gone as far as Sanders in saying he wants to make college tuition completely free, he has billed his higher education plan as more practical – making sure students are debt-free when they graduate.

The former governor has four children with his wife, and together they have sustained more than $330,000 in loans in trying to put their kids through school.

O’Malley’s proposal on this front would be to lock tuition rates at public universities and colleges – such as UConn – and to allow students and their families to refinance any debt they harbor at a lower interest level.

In addition, if elected, O’Malley would look to restructure federal work-study programs for students in such a way that it would pay for their room and board. To pay for this and other initiatives, O’Malley will look to tax capital gains at a similar rate as income and plug up corporate tax loopholes.

On social issues, O’Malley is thoroughly pro-choice. He is also in favor of full LGBTQ rights, and as governor of Maryland, he instituted a same-sex marriage law.

Although not a central tenet of his campaign, O’Malley has made an effort to speak to the issue of income inequality, which he blames, in part, on increasing American corporate clout.

While he has generated more interest since the first debate, O’Malley has had trouble building a wider base of supporters in the presidential race since the death of Freddie Gray and Baltimore’s subsequent unrest. Liberal critics have lambasted O’Malley’s zero-tolerance crime policies during his time as mayor of Baltimore, whereas his tough stance on crime had originally been a strength.

“Although he is positioning himself as a progressive alternative to Hillary Clinton, O'Malley also touts a police crackdown during his time as mayor that led to a stark reduction in drug violence and homicides as one of his major achievements,” Paul Schwartzman and John Wagner wrote in The Washington Post on April 25. “Yet some civic leaders and community activists in Baltimore portray O'Malley’s policing policies in troubling terms. The say the ‘zero-tolerance’ approach mistreated young black men even as it helped dramatically reduce crime.”

The current Democratic presidential primary landscape has O’Malley primed for at least a modest increase in support after he delivered a speech praised by Democrats in Iowa.

Recent remarks from O’Malley have been targeted at Clinton’s polarizing nature and Sanders’ self-proclaimed support for socialism.

“I don’t believe that all Republicans are my enemy. They’re my neighbors. And I actually do believe in capitalism when it’s practiced in ways that encourage and defend fair competition and push back against the concentration of monopoly power as the big banks now enjoy it,” O’Malley said.

A RealClearPolitics average of major polls has, as of Thursday, Clinton polling at 54.8 percent, Sanders polling at 32.5 percent, and O’Malley polling at 1.8 percent.


Sten Spinella is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at sten.spinella@uconn.edu.