Martin O’Malley was the first presidential candidate back in Iowa following the Christmas holiday season, speaking to a crowd of a little over 100 people at the Des Moines Social Club last night. He was at an event hosted by STAR PAC, an organization that focuses on foreign policy and military arms reductions around the world. They endorsed O’Malley earlier this month.
O’Malley spoke on America’s role in the world, then took questions from the audience. One younger Hispanic woman asked about the recent deportation plans and immigration. O’Malley replied by suggesting suspect motives on ICE’s part in their Christmas deportation idea.
“I think it is a horrible public policy and I immediately came out and blasted it when I read the news,” O’Malley said. “You almost wonder if it’s some sort of malicious obedience within ICE trying to embarrass the President by coming out with this at Christmastime. I don’t think any nation is ever made stronger by breaking up families. And we now have a mindless deportation policy.”
O’Malley further hinted that he’d be soon making the recent deportations a larger part of his campaign message.
“I’ve called for doing away with these for-profit prisons and I’ve called for doing away with these mass immigrant detention camps. They are totally contrary to our higher purposes as a nation and I plan to have a lot more to say on these ICE deportations and I plan to write to the President about it as well in a very public way,” he added.
The audience asked about a wide variety of topics, touching on the minimum wage, the police’s handling of people with disabilities, the war on drugs and water pollution. And, as always, it wasn’t an Iowa Caucus event without at least one out-of-left-field question. One man stood up to ask about patent rights, showing O’Malley his invention of a bubble pen, a pen out of which you can apparently write letters in bubbles. He was having difficulties with the patent office process.
O’Malley spoke at length about his experience with policing practices in Baltimore and Maryland.
“As mayor of a majority African-America city, one of my promises was that we’d improve policing,” O’Malley said on his record in Maryland. “I also promised we would police the police …. [we] achieved three [of the four] lowest years of fatal police-involved shootings in Baltimore history. We continued to drive down violent crimes to 30-year lows, but get this – we drove down our incarceration rates to 20-year lows … I closed our state’s largest and most notorious prison, did it in the first 52 days in office. Memo to any aspiring executives: it’s a lot easier to close a prison and then ask a legislature for forgiveness than to ask them for permission.”
Several in the crowd had seen O’Malley in person a number of times, but there were also quite a few new faces. Starting Line found five people who were attending their very first Iowa Caucus candidate event of the year. That’s part of the reason O’Malley plans on spending most of January in the lead-off state. Despite all the candidate activity, spending and media attention, there are still a decent amount of caucus-goers who don’t tune into the race until the very end.
“I think he’s more personable than the other candidates,” commented Vince Geraci of West Des Moines, who decided to caucus for O’Malley about a month or two ago. “I think executive experience counts. I just think he’s a lot more friendly. I’ve seen Bernie. I like Bernie too. I’ll vote for any one of the three. I will not go to the dark side.”
Two older women from the Des Moines area, both at their first candidate event, came in leaning toward Clinton and Sanders, but ended the night intending to caucus for O’Malley.
O’Malley is on a four-day swing through Iowa. He holds events today in Webster City, Iowa Falls, Waterloo and Tama today.
by Pat Rynard