Former Carroll County Attorney Barry Bruner (left) speaks with Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley in rural Carroll County Sunday afternoon.
Former Carroll County Attorney Barry Bruner (left) speaks with Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley in rural Carroll County Sunday afternoon.

June 29, 2015


Martin O’Malley can’t spot any orioles these days in Baltimore, the city he served as mayor for eight years. Climate change chased the birds away, he said.

On an acreage 1½ miles southeast of Roselle, O’Malley, a Democratic presidential candidate, searched the trees Sunday afternoon for his beloved bird. He thought he spotted at least one oriole, near a top pine branch.

But the former two-term Maryland governor wasn’t in Iowa looking for birds. He wants caucus votes in what right now looks like the long shot of all long shots: a challenge to the seeming (and poll-backed) inevitability of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee for president in 2016. The Real Clear Politics average of major polls from April 25 to June 22 shows Clinton leading in the Iowa Democratic Caucuses with 56 percent support. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont running as a Democrat, is at 16.4 percent. O’Malley polled at 2.2 percent. Vice President Joe Biden, who is not a declared candidate, posts 9.3 percent in the collected composite.

Before speaking at the home of Carroll County Democratic Party Co-Chairman Tim Tracy, O’Malley chatted up most of the 50 party activists and political junkies who braved a blazing sun for the outdoor rally.

“I’m part Irish and part German, which means I like to give orders, but I don’t like to take them,” O’Malley joked with some Iowans who complimented him on his Irish descent.

In his remarks, O’Malley earned some of the most-sustained applause in his appearance in calling for comprehensive immigration reform, a key element of which, he said, is pulling an estimated 11 million undocumented people from an underground economy.

“Unless we are Native Americans, we were all once strangers in a strange land,” O’Malley said. “The genius of our nation is that in every generation we make it possible for new Americans to join this movement forward of a rising middle class, and that, too, is good for wages.”

O’Malley, born in Washington, D.C., and raised in the Maryland suburbs of the nation’s capital, trained much of his Southern-accented rhetorical fire on income inequality, saying the system is stacked against the middle and working classes in favor of large-monied interests.

“The big money and the big power have become so intertwined, and so concentrated, that we’ve reached the point in our country’s history where that concentration of wealth and power is sucking opportunity out of the homes and the neighborhoods of the many,” O’Malley said. “And when you reach a point like that, there’s only two paths — one is a sensible rebalancing for the common good we share, and the other is pitchforks, more of ’em, in the hands of more and more angry people.”

O’Malley supports publicly financed campaigns, and says the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, which allows for unlimited expenditures for interest groups, has turned American politics into a highest-bidder auction.

“Citizens United should be called ‘Citizens Don’t Matter,’” O’Malley said.

O’Malley, who described himself as “fearless” with his progressive values, calls for more than doubling the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour, tying college student loan repayments to graduates’ incomes and paid family leave.

He opposes the imminent Trans-Pacific Partnership, what the New York Times described as a legacy-defining accord for President Barack Obama linking 40 percent of the world’s economy — from Canada and Chile to Japan and Australia — in a web of rules governing Pacific commerce. O’Malley said the trade deal will cost American jobs and did not emerge from open debate.

“I’m opposed to any secret trade deal,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley’s big idea: an aggressive push for more renewable-energy development. He said clean energy should fully power the United States by 2050. He would create a Clean Energy Job Corps and direct the Environmental Protection Agency to crack down on greenhouse gas emissions.

“Our economy is not money, it is people, all of our people,” O’Malley said.

Barry Bruner, a former Democratic Carroll County Attorney, said he is “impressed as can be” with O’Malley.

“I think he has a place in this campaign,” Bruner said after O’Malley’s speech. “He connected with me, and I’m excited to see someone like this in the race. It’s going to make all of the candidates stronger. Maybe he will be a part of a ticket, if it comes down to that, if Hillary is too strong to beat.”

Carroll County Supervisor Gene Meiners, a Democrat, said O’Malley’s message can resonate in rural Iowa.

“He talks with a lot of common sense, I thought, kind of at our level,” Meiners said.

Andy Lange, 25, of Carroll, sees O’Malley as being a progressive with a background that could make him more electable than Sanders.

“I came into this almost certain that I would be caucusing for Bernie Sanders,” Lange said. “But I will say that I was quite impressed.”

Lange said O’Malley’s executive background separates him from Sanders.

“I think that O’Malley would do very well in a general election,” Lange said. “I think that’s where Bernie Sanders might not be as strong is in the general election. I think putting O’Malley on a stage next to almost any Republican I can think of, I can’t imagine that the governor would not do extremely well.”