Saturday was not Maryland Gov. Martin O”Malley’s first trip to South Carolina. His daughter is a student at the College of Charleston and during his Keynote Address at the 2nd Annual Democratic Party Issues Conference, he also talked about visits to Fort Moultrie with his sons.
The theme of O’Malley’s speech was results in place of ideology.
Re-elected in 2010 with 56 percent of the vote, O’Malley blasted the record of Nikki Haley on several fronts. He noted the Department of Revenue cybersecurity breach, the state’s continued struggles to improve public education and Haley’s rejection of hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid expansion. He also noted that even with the addition of thousands of jobs, South Carolina still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.
O’Malley criticized Haley as an ideologue and said the time had come for her to be replaced by Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D – Kershaw). Though Sheheen has not officially announced his intention to seek a rematch of the 2010 race with Haley, he has done little to dispel the notion that his entry is a mere formality.
O’Malley, who is the Finance Chair of the Democratic Governor’s Association, also touted Maryland’s accomplishments. He cited the state’s first-place standing in education and median income as well its top ranking by the Chamber of Commerce for entrepreneurship.
With South Carolina’s standing as an early primary state in the presidential race, O’Malley’s appearance also had undertones of 2016.
But O’Malley did not address such speculation, saying he was appearing in the state to support Democrats such as Sheheen and 1st Congressional District candidate Elizabeth Colbert Busch.
Speaking with the media after his speech O’Malley said, “South Carolina can and should be doing better. (In Maryland) we believe in a practical approach and doing what works. The ideologies of left and right haven’t served us well.”
Like South Carolina, Maryland is dominated by a single party, except in its case they are Democrats. O’Malley’s relationship with his legislature does not appear to be as contentious as Haley’s is with hers.
“The budget passed with a majority of Republican support in the Senate,” O’Malley said. “When you accomplish something meaningful it’s because you’ve focused on the little things and they became big things. We haven’t worried about ideology. We’ve worried about results.”
O’Malley also cautioned against Democrats across the country becoming too complacent with its successes last November. “We still have a lot of work to do. We have to strengthen the security of the middle class. That’s the challenge of our times,” he said. “For all of the anger that went with the Tea Party movement, the movement that carried Nikki Haley into office, that anger and ideology doesn’t create jobs or improve education.”
O'Malley was not exactly welcomed with open arms by the Palmetto State's Republicans. He was heavily criticized on social media before, during and after his remarks.
Tim Pearson, Gov. Haley's Chief Political Advisor took issue with O'Malley's statements and his record.
"Martin O'Malley is, predictably, juking the stats - unemployment has gone down in SC since Nikki Haley took office, and gone up in Maryland since O'Malley took office," Pearson said. "If he wants to be honest with South Carolinians we're happy he's here - if not, he should go back to Maryland where he quite successfully legalized gambling, gay marriage, the end of the death penalty, and hiked taxes on everyone and everything he could think of."
Conversely, Sheheen was more than happy to have O'Malley in town. "We owe to our residents to listen to what (Gov. O'Malley) has to say," Sheheen said. "We can learn a lot from him."
Governor O'Malley's complete speech is below:
Thank you all very much…It is really good to be with all of you -- thank you so much for your kind South Carolina hospitality. I love your State -- its beauty, its marshlands and coastline...Its proud Revolutionary history,...
As a boy my imagination was captured by the stories of Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox; and with my own sons, I have walked the ramparts of Fort Moultrie. I always look forward to visiting the Palmetto State, this land of such great beauty and history. I also happen to be a proud parent of a College of Charleston junior, my daughter, Tara O'Malley -- who I love very much. She loves Charleston and it’s no wonder.
Charleston is a really beautiful place -- one of America’s great cities, and I am a big fan of your Mayor,… the Great Joe Riley. Mayor Riley, of course, is a former President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, where we have a saying “once a Mayor, always a Mayor.” Or in Mayor Riley’s case, we can just shorten it to “always, a mayor.” If your constituents elect you to ten terms, you must be doing something right.
The great thing about the job of Mayor is that you bring people together to get big important things done. There is no Democratic or Republican way to reduce crime, to fill a pothole, or to keep streets clean. You have to bring people together to do the things that work, you have to govern by results.
That’s exactly the type of pragmatic, problem solving leadership our friend Jim Hodges brought to your Governor’s office. And,... it’s the type of leadership that Elizabeth Colbert Busch will soon bring to the United States Congress!
So, greetings from Maryland. As two of the original Thirteen States, there is so much that unites us. Importantly, in Maryland and in South Carolina, we believe in progress. And at our core, we are pro-growth Americans.
What do I mean by this? We believe in growing jobs and growing opportunity. We believe in children growing healthy, growing educated, and growing strong. We believe in grandparents growing old with dignity, security and love. And we believe in growing prosperity and greater opportunity for every generation.
I wanted to talk with you about the better choices we need to make together. Because progress is a choice. Job creation is a choice. Whether we give our kids a future of more opportunity or a future of less opportunity,… this too is a choice.
Are Your Actions Working for Us?
In these challenging times, there is a clear contrast emerging between leadership that works, and ideology that doesn’t. Giving our children a better future isn't about whether we move left or right, it's about whether we move forward or back. Are the actions we're taking together are working to create jobs and expand opportunity? ...Is it working??? That's the test.
It is the ultimate test for any Governor, any legislator, any Mayor, any elected servant leader. Spare me your ideology; show me how your choices are working for me and my family, show me how your choices are working for all of us, and for all of our families.
Now, some of these new tea party Republican governors are funny in this regard, aren’t they? They run on a platform claiming government isn’t working. Then when they’re in office, their own failure to do the job proves their point.
Your current Governor -- bless her heart -- is a case in point. Creating jobs at Georgia’s Port of Savannah instead of creating jobs at South Carolina’s Port of Charleston,… failing to take basic cyber security precautions to protect 3.6 million Social Security numbers,… waiting nearly two weeks to tell hundreds of thousands of South Carolinians that their credit card data had been hacked and stolen,… how’s all that working for South Carolina?
Facts are facts. At 8.7%, South Carolina has one of America’s highest rates of unemployment. And the Tea Party still isn't hiring.
Fact -- under Governor Haley, sadly South Carolina graduates a lower percentage of high school students than 47 other states. How much less education do the children of South Carolina need to succeed?
Fact – South Carolina’s public colleges and universities have the highest tuition and the lowest state support in the South. Tuition is up 45% since 2006. If this works for you and your family -- if you think college is something that only rich families should be able to afford, perhaps you want to stick with Governor Haley. If you believe that every hard working kid in South Carolina deserves a fair shot at the opportunity to go to college, you want to work hard to elect a new governor like Vincent Sheheen,...
And it's not just what your current Governor fails to do, it's what she chooses to do.
I understand nearly 217,000 South Carolina voters do not have a photo ID – most of them are poor, or elderly, or both. In spite of this – or more likely because of this – Governor Haley signed a voter suppression law that requires a photo ID in order to vote.
How does that work for South Carolina? How does suppressing voter turnout help South Carolina create jobs and expand opportunity?
Final point on this score, one in five of your fellow South Carolinians do not have health care. In fact, only 3 states have higher concentrations of uninsured citizens. Republican governors in states like Florida, Ohio, even New Jersey have read the writing on the wall and dropped their opposition to accepting federal health care resources. But not Governor Haley, bless her heart. Once again, ideology trumps practical reality.
If this approach works for you… if you believe it is more important to poke the President in the eye, than to promote the health of your fellow citizens and the financial solvency of your hospitals… perhaps you want to stick with Governor Haley. But if you believe South Carolina deserves better, I hope you'll come together to elect someone like Vincent Sheheen.
As you search for the good intentions of your neighbors in these upcoming elections, let's ask one another -- without any anger, meanness, or fear -- how much less do you really think would be good for South Carolina? How much less education would be good for the children of South Carolina? How much less public safety would be good for your towns and cities? How many fewer college graduates would be good for our economy? How many hungry kids can we as no longer afford to feed?
If we want better results, we need to make better choices. This Ideology of an America of Less just doesn't work.
Governing By Results
Fortunately, there is a new generation of Democratic governors who believe in doing the things that work to create jobs and expand opportunity now.
In Maryland, we set goals and measure government performance on a weekly basis. Collaboration, common platforms. Openness, transparency. We identify the things that are working, and we do more of them. We identify waste and inefficiency, and we eliminate it.
We’ve reformed our pension system and cut state spending big time. But, at the same time, we’re investing more to improve public education, to hold down college tuition, to spur innovation and job creation in emerging new sectors, and to rebuild our roads, schools, clean water infrastructure and cyber infrastructure.
And it appears to be working. This balanced approach delivering results: the fastest rate of job growth in our region, the highest median income in our nation, the #1 ranked public schools in America, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s #1 ranking for innovation and entrepreneurship.
And Maryland is by no means the only State in America that is making better choices. Across our country Democratic governors are choosing to do the things that work to achieve better results for the people they serve.
Consider the story of Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe. In 2008, his State ranked 44th in public education. He didn’t choose to make excuses, pick fights, or just cross his fingers and hope education would fix itself.
He made record investments in public schools, even as he cut state spending for other priorities. He brought together 1,500 leaders from every county in his state – educators and employers alike - with the goal of better coordinating education and economic development strategies. He hired 43 full-time college and career coaches and placed them in his state’s most economically challenged counties to help high schools and their guidance counselors. He put modern technology in public school classrooms. He even gave state employees eight hours of paid leave to volunteer in their children’s’ schools and attend their parent-teacher conferences.
Today, his state’s schools no longer rank 44th in public education. They rank 5th best in the country. That’s leadership that works!
Better choices, better results.
What Type of Change?
Government alone is certainly not the solution to all the challenges we face. But to the cynical who say that government is never part of the answer, we might ask, what then is the question? For if the question is how to create jobs,… how to get our economy recovering faster,… how to reimagine what it means to be an American in these challenging times,… how to create greater freedom, opportunity, and jobs for all,… then a working and effective government is an indispensable and essential part of the answer,...
You and I,... South Carolina and Maryland,... stand at the threshold of a new era of American progress. The question is whether we have the courage and the conviction to make the better choices; to do the things that work to create jobs and expand opportunity. To reward hard work. To escape the self-destructive ideology of less, and a culture of “no-consequences.” To punish criminals and protect families. To draw the lines between the actions that strengthen the next generation and the actions that harm it.
For there is a powerful truth at the heart of the American dream. The stronger we make our country, the more she gives back to us. The more she gives back to our children, and to our grandchildren
Conclusion: America Needs South Carolina
If we want to give our children a future of more, rather than a future of less, then,… America needs South Carolina to make progress again!
If we want more jobs and more opportunity, and then America needs South Carolina to make progress again!
If we want everyone who works hard to "make it in America" … then America needs South Carolina to make progress again!
The United States of America is the greatest job-creating, opportunity-expanding country ever created by a free people in the history of civilization – and she still is. But, America needs South Carolina if she is to move forward, not back!
Thank you all very much.
 Note – this time period covers both the Haley & Sanford administrations.