Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland and former mayor of Baltimore, entered the race in May on a wave of high expectation that the young Democrat could be the candidate to challenge Hillary Clinton from the left. Throughout his career, his liberal ideals have made him an object of admiration and a target for skepticism. But Bernie Sanders, the self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist has seized that progressive groundswell that might have been his, leaving O’Malley at a dismal 0.4 in the polls. (The one area where O’Malley has been hitting Sanders hard is the Vermont senator’s record on guns.)
For those who may not be familiar with O’Malley, for whom Tuesday night’s debate represents perhaps his last significant opportunity to make an impression on voters, here’s a primer on the man and his politics.
1. He’s been a hotshot in politics for a long time.
Esquire named him “The Best Young Mayor in the Country” in 2002, and three years later, Time called him one of America’s “Top 5 Big City Mayors.” That same year, BusinessWeek said he, along with Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel, was one of five new stars of the Democratic Party.
2. He’s not Tommy Carcetti.
Tommy Carcetti, the fictional Baltimore councilman who eventually becomes mayor and then governor in the iconic show The Wire, might be how many people outside Maryland first heard of Martin O’Malley. While there are some parallels — most notably when it comes to O’Malley’s record on crime — many elements of Carcetti are very clearly fictional, and have even contributed to negative rumors during O’Malley’s first campaign for governor.
3. He’s had national ambitions for a long time.
Back in 2007, just a couple of months into his tenure as governor, his bigger aspirations were spelled out in a Washington Post piece: “It’s the worst-kept secret in Maryland that the governor has national ambitions,” said House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell, while Senate president Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said, “I think it comes into play in everything he does, quite frankly. He’s very much like Bill Clinton in being slow and deliberative and calculating in everything he does.”
Even 10 years earlier, when he was a city councilman, there was speculation about what he would do next.
4. He’s a longtime supporter of the Clintons. He’s even jammed with them.
A proud Irish-Catholic (he graduated from Catholic University), he spent many years performing in a Celtic rock band as an extracurricular activity outside his government work. He played guitar on a presidential delegation returning from Northern Ireland in 2000, which cemented his relationship with the Clintons (Bill being a musician himself). In fact, in an interesting twist, he was one of the first to endorse Hillary Clinton in 2008.