TILTON — During the New Hampshire Presidential Primary of 1984, Martin O'Malley, then 19, slept on a floor in Manchester while working for Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado, who began his campaign with barely 1 percent of the vote, but crowned it by topping former Vice President Walter Mondale by 10 points to win the primary.
This year, O'Malley, who served as mayor of Baltimore for eight years and governor of Maryland for another eight, is himself a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, standing where Hart began, with 2 percent of the vote in a race dominated by Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, with just 17 days until the ballots are cast.
"You have three candidates to choose from. Not just two," O'Malley told a couple dozen voters at the Tilt'n Diner yesterday afternoon. He said he was encouraged to hear that when three Democrats met in Iowa yesterday to choose their favorite in anticipation of the caucus on Feb. 1, they split evenly among the three candidates. At the same time, he said he was often told "I really liked you in that debate, but why didn't they let you speak more?"
"I've always been drawn to a tough fight ," O'Malley said. "I didn't run run for mayor of Baltimore because things were going well." He claimed that the schedule and format of the debates among the Democratic candidates were "rigged" to favor Clinton and place her rivals at a disadvantage.
"Wherever I go I hear two phrases," O'Malley said, "new leadership and getting things done." He said that as mayor he inherited a city marked by rising crime, failing schools and a flagging economy and reversed all three trends.
"We make our own future," O'Malley insisted, stressing the importance of a growing economy. "Our economy is not money, it's people," he said. "We have a demand problem," he continued, explaining that some 70 percent of economic growth is driven by consumer spending, but wages and salaries have been stagnant. Meanwhile, he said that as middle class families have borrowed to educate their children, debt has become a drag on the economy.
Invoking the memory of President Theodore Roosevelt, O'Malley said that the power of monopolies should by curtailed by the enforcement of anti-trust laws and free competition restored to the marketplace. At the same time, employers paying low wages should no longer be subsidized by taxpayers who fund the benefits their employees receive to supplement their earnings. He questioned trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership, which encouraged firms to invest in operations overseas and failed to protect producers at home.
A strong environmentalist, O'Malley described the challenge of climate change as "the greatest business opportunity for America in 100 years." Speaking with two gentlemen at the diner, one of whom handed him a stuffed moose, he said that he learned the moose population was declining as warmer temperatures prolonged the lives of ticks bearing disease. He said when he asked the men what could be done, they replied "less carbon in the air" and he told them he has a plan to create a "100 percent clean electric grid by 2050."
O'Malley also called for a new foreign policy of "engagement and collaboration" aimed at anticipating threats "before we're pushed into a military corner" and overcoming through alliances and diplomacy.
"You have three candidates to choose from, not just two," O'Malley reminded the voters. "I'm giving you another choice."
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