Maryland governor, a possible presidential candidate, pushes for stronger middle class

Speaking in Las Vegas, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, on Friday slammed Republicans in Congress for “shutting America down and selling America short,” including by rejecting President Barack Obama’s plea to raise the minimum wage to $10.10.

O’Malley said giving the middle class a living wage is the way to growth and prosperity. In a speech to the Clark County Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner, the governor rejected what he called GOP cynicism.

“Prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top,” O’Malley said. “It never has. A thriving economy – a growing economy – is built from the middle out and the middle up. A stronger middle class is not the consequence of economic growth — it is the cause of economic growth.”

O’Malley used Maryland as an example of reviving a state during his two terms in office. He said Baltimore, for example, was ravaged by drugs back in 1999 when he was elected mayor. He cleaned up the city, closed down drug markets and expanded drug treatment programs as part of a campaign called “Believe.”

As governor, he focused on raising the middle class. Maryland raised the minimum wage to $10.00 this year as has Connecticut, Minnesota and Hawaii, he noted, after years of people not about to make ends meet on several dollars less.

This week, however, all but one Republican rejected a federal $10.10 minimum wage hike proposal when U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., brought it up in the Senate, O’Malley said. Instead, the GOP “voted to filibuster and obstruct rather than raise the minimum wage for hard-working moms and dads across the country.”

O’Malley said Republicans just don’t get that raising wages will boost the economy and business, although Republicans argued that businesses could cut the workforce if wages go up too high, too fast.

“America is the greatest job-generating, opportunity-expanding nation ever created in the history of the free world,” O’Malley said. “But America cannot serve our children’s needs if our Republican brothers and sisters in Congress keep insisting on shutting America down and selling America short.”

“As Democrats — as Americans — we have an urgent responsibility today,” he added. “It’s about jobs. It’s about a stronger middle class. And it’s about giving our children a better future now.”

In contrast, O’Malley said “Tea Party Republicans” funded by “their wealthy economic royalist friends” such as the Koch brothers and Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson “see America as a small place, a place of limited capacity and limited potential. …A place that can only afford to serve the privileged few.”

Democrats, he said, understand, “We will not solve our problems by doing less. We must do more.”

As governor, O’Malley signed into law key progressive priorities such as gun safety reforms, marriage equality and a state-level DREAM Act for young immigrants so they can legally study and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation.

The Maryland governor has been open about his desire to run for president, although he hasn’t officially announced. He told the Washington Post earlier this year that his decision won’t hinge on whether Hillary Clinton runs. The former secretary of state and U.S. senator from New York is a far-ahead front-runner in early presidential polls.

“I have a great deal of respect for Hillary Clinton,” O’Malley told the Post. “But for my own part, I have a responsibility to prepare and to address the things that I feel a responsibility to address. To squander this important period of preparation because of horse-race concerns and handicapping concerns is just not a very productive use of energy.”

The Jeffer-Jackson dinner comes on the eve of the Clark County Democratic Party convention in Las Vegas at the Tropicana. With early primary voting starting on May 24 in Nevada, political candidates and incumbents seeking re-election are expected to make their pitches to get out the vote at Saturday’s gathering of the party’s most active members.

The theme of this year’s convention is “Change Starts With You.”

While in Nevada, O’Malley also touted Democrats on the state’s 2014 ballot, including Lucy Flores, Ross Miller, Kate Marshall, Erin Bilbray, Kim Wallin and U.S. Reps. Dina Titus and Steven Horsford. He chatted up some of the candidates, including Assemblywoman Flores, who’s running for lieutenant governor.

O’Malley also met with labor leaders, activists and the head of the state party, Roberta Lange.

GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval faces no serious Democratic or Republican opposition and is expected to be re-elected Nov. 4.

So much of the focus this year has been on the lieutenant governor’s race because of speculation Sandoval might not finish his four-year term and instead run for the U.S. Senate against Reid in 2016 or accept another federal judge appointment.

Assemblywoman Flores, D-Las Vegas, is the Democrats’ pick for lieutenant governor. She faces weak opposition in the June 10 primary. On the GOP side, Sandoval’s choice, state Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas, is competing with former state Sen. Sue Lowden, a casino executive and former TV broadcaster. A third Republican also is in the race.

Secretary of State Ross Miller is running for attorney general against Republican attorney Adam Laxalt. State Treasurer Kate Marshall is running for secretary of state against state Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas. State Controller Kim Wallin is running for treasurer against Republican businessman Dan Schwartz.

In Congress, Titus of the 1st Congressional District and Horsford of the 4th Congressional District both have weak Democratic opponents. The GOP primaries in those races, however, are highly competitive.

Two Hispanic Republicans, Dr. Annette Teijeiro and attorney Jose Padilla, are competing for the right to take on Titus in her heavily Democratic district. Horsford’s GOP opponent will likely be either Assemblyman Cresent Hardy, R-Mesquite, or Niger Innis, a civil rights advocate and member of the Tea Party. Horsford’s district leans Democratic but includes both urban North Las Vegas in Clark County and all or part of six Republican-heavy rural counties.

Erin Bilbray, a political consultant, is hoping to defeat U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev. He is running unopposed in the GOP primary for a third term in the 3rd Congressional District in Clark County, including Boulder City and Henderson.

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Find her on Twitter: @lmyerslvrj.

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