Martin O’Malley: Underdog of the 2016 Election

Compared to the long and complicated line-up of Republican presidential hopefuls, the Democrat side is relatively unpopulated. Hillary Clinton is still the most-favored Democratic candidate, scoring an average of 49.3% in the polls. First runner-up is Bernie Sanders, behind by 25.5% at 23.8%. Second runner-up, and still doggedly in the running, is Martin O’Malley at 2.3%.

Martin O’Malley, former Governor of Maryland (2007-2015) and former Mayor of Baltimore (1999-2007), declared his candidacy as a Democratic presidential hopeful on May 30, 2015. He is third of the five current presidential hopefuls to declare his candidacy. A history-lover, musician, and career politician, O’Malley has some way to go before he can see his way clear to a Democratic nomination, much less the presidency.


Family and Education

O’Malley is an American of Irish descent, raised and schooled in Maryland. He attended the Our Lady of Lourdes School and Gonzaga College High School, before moving on to The Catholic University of America for his undergraduate degree. From there he went straight to the University of Maryland School of Law, where he graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1988, and passed the bar that same year.

O’Malley is married, to fellow law student Katie Curran, and they have four children together. Besides his interest in law and politics, O’Malley is sometimes called the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Governor” because of his side-career in Celtic Rock. He also has a strong love of history, shown especially in his enthusiasm about the War of 1812.

Path to the Presidency

Beginning in his student life, O’Malley was highly involved in jobs that would bring him step-by-step to a political career. O’Malley attributes his interest in politics to the participation in public services required by his alma mater Gonzaga College High School. From then onwards, he planned to use his law degree in that field, rather than for private practice.

While still taking his undergraduate degree, O’Malley participated in the 1984 presidential campaign of Gary Hart, beginning in December 1982. His penchant for hard work is reflected in his in-depth participation in the campaign, as he went from one fundraiser to another and one event to another to build support for Hart in Iowa. Capitalizing on his music skills to build camaraderie, he took along a guitar and his singing voice.

O’Malley gained the voters’ attention in 1990 when he ran and lost in the Maryland State Senate elections, just by 44 votes. He then became a Councilman for the 3rd District on the Baltimore City Council. Later, he became Mayor of Baltimore before moving up to Governor of Maryland.


Policy Record and Views

Crime Reduction

O’Malley conducted and carried his mayoral campaign on the promise of crime reduction. While overall crime statistics have yet to fall substantially, O’Malley successfully brought new technological infrastructure into play through CitiStat (in Baltimore) and StateStat (as Governor, in Maryland). The crime-mapping software identifies and pinpoints the specific crime issues and enforcement needs per area, based on calls for service. However, it is unlikely to become part of his presidential platform and campaign, as the current Baltimore riots are being blamed on his 8-year mayoral term, despite the 8-year lapse since then.


O’Malley could very well emerge as the leading Democratic candidate when it comes to immigration policies. He is not only in favor of allowing illegal and undocumented immigrants to find a way to citizenship and legal economic participation, O’Malley has clearly defined and non-ambiguous policies on immigration. That alone gives him an advantage over Bernie Sanders in particular, who is balancing immigration reform with the need to raise minimum wages.

As Governor of Maryland, O’Malley allowed children of undocumented immigrants to receive in-state tuition if they had been in a Maryland high school for at least 3 years, they or their parents paying state income taxes at the same time. For his presidential platform, O’Malley pledged to include undocumented families in public healthcare, if they were currently protected from deportation. Illegal immigrants would also face less detention time, and be provided with legal advice in the event of their deportation. O’Malley also proposed that a new agency, independent of the Federal Government, be created to advise potential immigrants on their eligibility.

Foreign Policy

For O’Malley, the most effective foreign policy is that which is geared towards domestic security on a broad scale. Following this line of thought, O’Malley states that his plans for overall national American security concern threats that target the nation as a whole. He pushes for the tightening of U.S. cybersecurity, and in taking a definite and firm stand against climate change.

By his own admission, “the source of America’s global strength is our own prosperity at home. No fighter jet or troop battalion will keep us as safe as a vibrant economy, a strong democracy, and a growing middle class.” This foreign policy stand looks less at the role of the United States on the global chess board, and more to the responsibilities of the Federal Government to the American people.

Additional Policy Stances

O’Malley legalized same-sex marriage in Maryland in 2012, which leaves no doubt as to his stand on the issue. This gives him the same potential appeal to the youth as Obama had during his campaigns, since he can use it as proof of his interest and engagement in social issues. In other policies, O’Malley is consistently progressive, opposing capital punishment while advocating gun control. His involvement with social issues may give him an advantage in the swing states, if he manages to capitalize on them.

Connected to O’Malley’s policy views is his Catholic faith. O’Malley is not a candidate who shies away from discussing his religion when questioned about it, and he openly links some of his policies to his faith convictions. A certain cross-section of voters are sure to find this stable blend of faith convictions and policy stands refreshing.


Martin O’Malley: Underdog of the Elections?

It still remains to be seen. Despite trailing in the polls, O’Malley has a steady, single-path determination to him that may bring him further than expected, as the presidential campaign for the 2016 elections continues.


About the author

Esther has a B.A. in Humanities and an M.A. in Political Economy. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing Sequence with her family, training in Aikido, and curling up with coffee and a good book.