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Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley introduces himself to N.H. Democrats

Last modified: 11/17/2013 11:17:32 PM
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley pitched himself as a reformer last night to a gathering of nearly 1,000 New Hampshire Democrats.

He told the story of how, as mayor of Baltimore, he launched a campaign to inspire hope and reduce crime; he railed on Tea Party Republicans and GOP policies; and he touted Maryland’s record of economic success, which includes returning all of the jobs lost during the recession.

“I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of the cynicism. I’ve had enough of the apathy, I’ve had enough of us giving in to self-pity, small solutions and low expectations of one another,” he told the crowd.

O’Malley delivered this message at the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Manchester, which drew its largest crowd in 10 years last night.

In addition to O’Malley’s speech, the crowd heard from Gov. Maggie Hassan, the state’s congressional Democrats and other prominent party members. With New Hampshire’s biggest Democratic names in the audience, it was a chance for O’Malley to speak directly to the people whose support he’ll want and need if he decides to run in 2016.

O’Malley, 50, has yet to officially declare a 2016 run, but he’s been open about his exploration, and his name comes up often as a likely candidate. He’s been governor since 2007, and can’t run again next year due to term limits.

At this point, he has little name recognition in New Hampshire: An October Granite State Poll by the UNH Survey Center gave him less than 1 percent of the vote among likely Democratic primary voters (with a 6 percent margin of error).

That put him behind the likes of Vice President Joe Biden, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and, of course, secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who polled at 64 percent and has the support of many prominent New Hampshire Democrats.

Still, those Democrats said last night it’s a good move for O’Malley to make his name known.

“(Clinton) hasn’t made her mind up yet, and so I think it makes sense for Gov. O’Malley to come here and meet people,” said Kathy Sullivan, former chairwoman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. “He’s a very impressive guy, a lot of people are here tonight to see him, so I think it’s good for him to be here.”

Likewise, lobbyist Jim Demers said making a stop in New Hampshire is a smart move for O’Malley. Demers was Obama’s state co-chairman in 2008, and has already publicly announced his support for Clinton.

“It’s really smart for anybody who thinks they might want to run to come to New Hampshire and test the waters,” he said. “If that’s what Martin O’Malley is thinking of doing, then he’s making a smart move.”

If Clinton doesn’t run, Demers said, “the race is wide open.”

O’Malley campaigned here on behalf of President Obama and Gov. Maggie Hassan in 2012. Earlier this year, he held a fundraiser for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, whom he worked with on the 1984 Gary Hart presidential campaign.

“We knew back then that Martin had a great future,” Shaheen told the crowd last night.

Before serving as governor of Maryland, O’Malley was the mayor of Baltimore from 1999 to 2007. Much of his address last night centered on a campaign he began to reform the crime-ridden, poverty-stricken city. The theme of the campaign was “Believe,” and over the course of 10 years, he said, Baltimore achieved the biggest reduction in crime rate in the country.

O’Malley also highlighted Maryland’s economic record during his tenure: It is one of the top states for upward economic mobility and job growth and has been named by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as the No. 1 state for entrepreneurship and innovation.

“I share these results with you because none of these were the product of chance, they were the product of choice,” he said.

The crowd became the most energized at the end of his speech, when he encouraged the crowd to build a better future for America.

“It only takes one person, then another, then another to stand up and say, ‘Enough. Enough finger-pointing, enough obstruction, enough wasted time,’ ” he said. “Let us achieve like Americans again, let us lead like Americans again, and let us believe like Americans again, in ourselves, in our nation and in one another.”

Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said he thought O’Malley’s speech resonated well with the crowd.

“It was a home run. This was his introduction to New Hampshire Democrats, . . . and I think there’s 1,000 people leaving this room pretty impressed,” he said.

The impression O’Malley is making now could go a long way in the future. Although Clinton is far and away the front-runner, if she enters the race, it’s never too early to come to New Hampshire, said former state senator and Democratic National Committee member Peter Burling.

“The good news is, we don’t have to make that judgement right now. There is huge support for Hillary, of course, but this is New Hampshire. . . . To have O’Malley indicate an interest in coming here, it’s a wonderful reciprocity,” Burling said. “It’s good for him, it’s good for us, it’s very important for this process.”

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)


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