Steinhauser: O'Malley slams controversial Indiana law
BEDFORD - Martin O'Malley says Indiana's new religious freedom law is "wrong" and that it's "shameful" for likely Republican presidential contenders to support the measure.
The former two-term Maryland governor and probable Democratic White House candidate made his comments at his first public event of a two-day swing through New Hampshire, his second trip to the Granite State this month.
At the latest edition of the Politics and Eggs speaking series, O'Malley also touted his progressive credentials, said he wasn't bothered by his standing in public opinion polls, said he would return to New Hampshire, praised Elizabeth Warren, and stressed the importance of "openness and transparency" in answering a question about Hillary Clinton's email controversy.
Asked about the Indiana law, O'Malley said "I think the gig is up. You have people like Apple and other businesses, leaders stepping up and saying not only is this wrong, not only is this run counter to who we are as Americans, it's also really bad for business."
"My mom's from Indiana. I know there's a lot of really good people in Indiana and this sort of ugly legislation is not consistent with the truer spirit of the people of our nation or of Indiana," he added.
O'Malley made his comments at the Bedford Village Inn, where Politics and Eggs, which is co-hosted by the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College and the New England Council, was held Tuesday. The event is a must stop for anyone serious about running for the White House.
Officially known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the law has set off a national controversy, with critics and even some supporters saying the measure would allow businesses to deny service to lesbian and gay customers if that service would offend their religious beliefs. Many businesses, organizations, politicians and many celebrities have slammed the law, with some of them cancelling events or business in Indiana.
Some of the probable GOP presidential candidates have come out in support of the measure. Asked about that by reporters, O'Malley said "I think it's shameful in this day and age that presidential candidates would try to give cover to a law that is sweeping across a lot of Republican governed states that attempts to give license to discrimination to gay and lesbian people. It's wrong. It's not who we are as a country."
O'Malley snipes at Clinton
O'Malley's visit comes just two days after the former governor took a not so veiled swipe at former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, who's all but certain to launch a second run for the White House, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who's moving closer and closer to launching a GOP presidential campaign.
"The presidency of the United States is not some crown to be passed between two families," O'Malley said Sunday in an appearance on ABC's "This Week."
O'Malley's language is a striking change from just a couple of weeks ago, during the height of media coverage of Clinton's email controversy, when he passed on criticizing her.
O'Malley was one of Clinton's biggest backers in the 2008 Democratic primary between the then-senator from New York and then-Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.
During a question and answer session with reporters, O'Malley was repeatedly asked about Clinton, which seemed to mildly irritate him. But he did offer that "the two phrases I hear where ever I go throughout the country are the phrases new leadership and getting things done. That's what people across our country want. They want to hear the clear voice of new leaders and they want leaders who know how to get things done. I don't know where the secretary might stand on some of those issues today."
Asked specifically about the controversy over Clinton's exclusive use of a private email account during her four years as secretary of state during President Barack Obama's first term, O'Malley first answered that "I've kind of said whatever I'm not going to say on the email thing."
But then tellingly, he added that "I think openness and transparency are very, very, important issues."
O'Malley had words of praise for Warren, the liberal senator from Massachusetts. Many progressives have been urging Warren to run for the party's nomination, but she keeps saying no.
O'Malley said "I welcome support from her supporters.. if I were to get into this race."
Not worried about poll position
Asked what's next for him in regards to launching a presidential campaign, O'Malley said "you can expect to see me back in New Hampshire soon and I'll make a decision this spring."
As for his low standing in the polls, O'Malley said "there's only one way to go. No it doesn't bother me."
"Polls are snapshots in time and the bigger question is how do we make our economy work again for all of us and that's the conversation we all need to have as Americans and as Democrats, and that's what I'm focused on. History is full of examples where the frontrunner is the frontrunner and totally inevitable right up until the frontrunner is no longer the frontrunner and no longer inevitable," O'Malley added.
O'Malley will be considered a very longshot to win the nomination if he runs. He's long had a strong progressive record to tout, and now appears to be positioning himself and a liberal, younger, and more forward looking alternative to Clinton.
During his speech he touted his record as Maryland governor, saying "we became the first state in the nation to pass a living wage law. We raised the minimum wage."
"We passed marriage equality. We passed the dream act. We made it possible for hard working new American moms and dads to actually get a driver's license to they could actually get to and from work and take care of their family," O'Malley added.
And he stressed what sounded like a progressive's dream platform.
"We need to strengthen and expand social security. We need to pass immigration reform," said O'Malley.
"The best way to bring down the debt and the best way to continue to bring down annual deficit spending is to grow our economy. We can't cut our way to prosperity," O'Malley added. "I believe the greatest debt is not the debt, the greatest threat is the declining middle class."
While in the first-in-the-nation primary state, O'Malley met with Democratic state lawmakers in Concord, did media interviews, including a one-on-one sit-down with NH1 News, and held a business roundtable with tech industry leaders at Dynamic Network Services, a cloud-based internet performance company. The firm, known as Dyn, is becoming a favorite of potential presidential candidates. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky spoke with employees at Dyn just a week and a half ago.
Tuesday evening, O'Malley will be the main attraction at the NH Young Democrats social hour at Margarita's in Nashua.