O'Malley stops in Des Moines, encouraged as caucuses draw closer

Former Maryland governor says he's experienced, but 'not part of the past 40 years'

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WEST DES MOINES — Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley urged Iowans Saturday to repeat their “penchant for upsetting the apple cart on caucus day.”

The former Maryland governor is encouraging residents of the first-in-the-nation caucus state to embrace his long-shot bid. During an event in West Des Moines, he touted himself as a new leader who can end Washington’s partisan gridlock and usher in a fresh era of American progress.

“I’m not a part of the past 40 years like my honorable colleagues who are seeking this party’s nomination,” said O’Malley in differentiating himself from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. “I haven’t been a part of Washington. I’m part of a new generation of leadership.”

O’Malley, 52, who also has served as mayor of Baltimore, said he brings 15 years of executive experience. That includes making progressive social and economic changes, he said, along with public-safety decisions for homeland protection and deploying troops as the first post-9/11 governor to run for president.

O’Malley highlighted his “action, not words” to raise the minimum wage and establish a living wage, repeal capital punishment. He also said he’s proud of his actions as governor to extend prevailing wages and collective bargaining provisions, promote marriage equality and immigration reform, and enact comprehensive gun safety legislation with a ban on combat-assault weapons.

He said he better understands challenges facing debt-ridden college students and their parents and middle-class Americans than do his rivals for the Democratics nomination because “I’m running with a bigger mountain of college debt than any other presidential candidate in this race.” He said he’s used his insight into that issue to help middle-class Americans realize modest growth in wages and income.

O’Malley also noted he’s part of a younger generation of political leaders who are more in tune with Americans who are more inclusive, saying “this eagle flies best when its right and left wings are working” as he expressed his willingness to work across the political aisle. He said he has a history of doing just that with Republicans, and that differentiates himself from Sanders and Clinton. O’Malley noted during a recent debate that Clinton counted Republicans among the people she considers to be her enemies.

“Republicans aren’t our enemies. They’re our friends, they’re our neighbors, they’re our colleagues at work, they’re our uncles,” he told more than 100 people who turned out at the West Des Moines Public Library for his first campaign event of this year. He also said he is the only “natural-born Democrat” in the race.

The way the 2016 campaign is unfolding indicates this will not be an ordinary election year, O’Malley said, but will be “nothing less than a fight for the soul of the United States of America.” Against that backdrop, he called on Iowans to consider his leadership alternative in breaking the division in Washington.

“I believe the outcome of the race is going to be set very early here,” O’Malley told reporters at the end of this campaign event. “I think the people of Iowa have the opportunity, as they’ve done before, to lift up a candidate that no one has heard of before.”

O’Malley said he is encouraged that increasingly larger crowds that are turning out to hear his message given that an Iowa adviser told him the key is to “organize, organize and catch fire late.” That is his focus during the final month leading up to the Feb. 1 caucuses, he said.

“I do think people are tuning in, and I do think that people want an alternative. I keep hearing the phrases new leadership and getting things done all across the country and all across your state, and that’s what I have to offer,” O’Malley noted.

“I think psychologically, a lot of Iowans put off making a commitment until after Christmas,” he said, “and now that Christmas has passed, I think that people are entering now that decision envelope and making up their minds. So we are certainly seeing in our own organization a lot more people committing to caucus for O’Malley.”

“I think it’s going to be once again one of those occasions where the people of Iowa have a surprise planned,” he said.

l Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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