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O'Malley Joins Democratic Presidential Race, Touts Executive Experience


It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. Arun Rath's away. I'm Karen Grigsby Bates. Former Maryland Governor and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley entered the presidential race today. He joins Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic nomination. Announcing his candidacy at Federal Hill Park in Baltimore, O'Malley made an argument that was part economic and, in a contrast with his rivals, part generational. NPR's Juana Summers is in Baltimore and has more.

JUANA SUMMERS, BYLINE: Speaking with the towers of downtown Baltimore behind him, O'Malley offered himself up as a youthful, progressive choice for Democrat in 2016.


MARTIN O'MALLEY: For the story of our country's best days is not found in a history book because this generation of Americans is about to write it.


SUMMERS: A former mayor and governor, O'Malley, who is 52, is also the front man for a rock band. He made the case that Democrats should bet on him because he has a record of executive experience. He pointed to early victories on same-sex marriage, abolishing the death penalty and boosting Maryland's minimum wage.

O'Malley, who backed Hillary Clinton in her last presidential bid, has been reluctant to directly attack her on the campaign trail. But today, as he announced his own campaign, he launched a broadside that dinged Clinton and Republican Jeb Bush, all while casting a harsh light on the financial industry.


O'MALLEY: Recently, the CEO of Goldman Sachs let his employees know that he'd be just fine with either Bush or Clinton. I bet he would.


O'MALLEY: Well, I've got news for the bullies of Wall Street. The presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth by you, between two royal families.


SUMMERS: It was not just an attack on Clinton, but an indication of how O'Malley will emphasize overhauling the financial system, a priority for those in the liberal wing of the party who oppose the bailouts of Wall Street banks. O'Malley also spoke of the unrest that gripped Baltimore after an unarmed black man, Freddie Gray, died of a spinal injury he sustained while in police custody. O'Malley called the violence in the city streets heartbreaking, but said there was a bigger lesson, both for Baltimore and for the country.


O'MALLEY: There is something to be offered to our country from those flames, for what took place here was not only about race, not only about policing in America, it was about everything it is supposed to mean to be an American.


SUMMERS: O'Malley used that episode to describe the effects that poverty and drug addiction are having on all young people in cities and towns across the country and stressed the need to set right a dysfunctional economic and political system. He called it upside-down and backward.

Freddie Gray's homicide put a spotlight on O'Malley's approach to policing while he was Baltimore mayor. It's called zero tolerance. A handful of critics came out to protest his campaign launch here. Megan Kenny, who lives in Baltimore city, chanted, black lives matter, and walked through the crowd, holding a sign that said stop killer cops. She said O'Malley was responsible for the climate that led to Freddie Gray's death. Others around her yelled that O'Malley was lying about his record.

MEGAN KENNY: Black men of color - black men and youngsters are punished disproportionately than their white counterparts for the exact same crime - the exact same crime. Why is that?

SUMMERS: Outside of Maryland, though, O'Malley's name recognition is in the single digits. Democrats nationally have been focused on Hillary Clinton's campaign. She's far ahead in the polls and has a significant advantage in fundraising. Juana Summers, NPR News, Baltimore. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.