A View From the Left: Maryland as 2016 Campaign Fodder


Did Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley score the parent vote for 2016?

Remember the lead-up to the Republican presidential primaries in 2012? There was a broad field of candidates tripping over each other as they ran to the right. Much of the early discourse sounded like “I hate abortion!” “I hate abortion more!” “I hate abortion the most!” “I hated it first!” The candidates all pandered to the motivated Tea Party voters by going hard right on social issues and decrying federal spending as vociferously as normal people would oppose poisoning puppies for sport. Such is the nature of primaries. In 2008, we saw the Democratic field having the same shouting contest over who opposed the Iraq war the most because that was the issue that would motivate the base in primary contests.

Like it or not, 2016 is approaching and with it, two distinct fields of primary contenders. If you’re curious what potential Democratic candidates are doing to win over the left-leaning primary electorate, look no further than the state of Maryland.

A few weeks ago, Governor Martin O’Malley – who is widely rumored to be planning a 2016 run – invited a number of Maryland parent bloggers to meet with him, ostensibly to answer our questions about what he’s doing during the current legislative session. But given the way he took questions and responded to the concerns of the people in the room, I’d say he was taking the pulse of parents to find out how to appeal to them going forward.

O’Malley gave us a lot of the kinds of answers that make a progressive’s heart go pitter pat. He’s expanding Medicaid in the wake of Affordable Care Act and plans to be an early implementer of the insurance exchange to offer an accessible marketplace for individual health insurance consumers. Maryland received an No Child Left Behind waiver and is embarking on creating new measures for evaluating schools instead of the draconian regime of testing, testing, and more testing. He’s committed to increasing uptake of school breakfast programs to give kids the ability to focus on their schooling rather than their stomachs. And, after being questioned about why the state has no paid parental leave policy, directed his legislative staff to look into it. On follow up, his staff told me that he’s talking internally about putting it on the 2014 agenda.

Then there are guns. In the wake of Newtown, the O’Malley Administration wrote an ambitious gun safety package. The main points of the proposal tighten purchasing rules and limit magazine sizes. It will also earmark funds for school security, that includes door cameras, shatterproof glass, and automatically locking doors. There is also a mental health component that links into better background check info sharing as well as a new task force to review and recommend improvements to mental health care in the state.  In other words, a legislative proposal that neatly checks every box in the progressive list of gun safety priorities.

The icing on the progressive cake? O’Malley is pushing to repeal the death penalty.

For those of you keeping score at home, O’Malley wants to reform and improve education, adopt ACA rules ahead of deadline, implement gun safety laws, and repeal the death penalty and he’s willing to talk about a state program for paid parental leave. This a scant year after he helped shepherd marriage equality into law. If he has his way, by the end of 2014, Maryland will be a liberal utopia and he’ll be able to take the fruits of his labors to the nation in a bid for the Presidency.

It may all be a politically calculated run to the left but as a progressive parent living in Maryland, I’m all for it. I’ll happily be the guinea pig in this social experiment if it leads to safer streets, better schools, and a healthier population.

Image via Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s Flick stream/CC license

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