Gov. O’Malley brings energy to packed Jamaica Plain rally

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JAMAICA PLAIN — The energy was high in the John F. Kennedy Room at Doyle’s Cafe on Thursday night, as a packed crowd gathered to meet former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and to support his 2016 Democratic presidential campaign.

O’Malley, whose fledgling campaign has been largely overshadowed by that of frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton, entered the room without fanfare, walking around and mingling with patrons.

Meghan Ryan, a 20-year-old New York native attending school at Mount Holyoke College, said she is excited to take part in the first presidential election she has been eligible to vote in.

“I came down here tonight because I really want to hear more about [Governor O’Malley],” she said. “I don’t think he’s getting the attention he deserves.”

Ryan said that O’Malley’s stance on social issues, particularly his support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement, are a part of what caught her attention. She cited the lack of debates between the Democratic candidates and the fervor surrounding Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) as reasons why O’Malley’s name recognition is still low.

Governor O’Malley addressed the standing-room only crowd, a mixture of older voters, students, and young professionals, stating that while his polling numbers are still low, they are climbing with the help of his supporters.

“We are a party that always looks the future,” he said. “We are a party where new leaders emerge.”

O’Malley stated that the Democratic races tend to come down to a choice between a candidate of the past that everyone is used to, and a new candidate with less name recognition. O’Malley presented himself as himself as a new kind of candidate that the Democratic party and the American people need.

Framed by an American flag and portraits of President John F. Kennedy, O’Malley said that a lot of candidates make promises about what they will do. He said what makes him different is that he has a track record to back up his campaign promises.

He pointed to his successful efforts in Maryland to raise the minimum wage, extend family leave, increase the state’s renewable energy portfolio, and spend more money on public education. During the time of his governorship, O’Malley said Maryland ranked first in the nation for education for five consecutive years.

Economic recovery and job creation were major themes of his speech, which seemed to resonate with the crowd. Cheers erupted when he mentioned job creation and making college more affordable.

“We are the only country saddling our kids with a mountain of debt,” he said. “It doesn’t need to be this way.”

O’Malley ended his speech by saying that his campaign was going to be a tough fight.

“But, I kind of like tough fights,” he said. “I do well in tough fights. That toughness shows me that it’s worth fighting for,” he told the crowd before reminding them that their economy, their country, and the promise of the American Dream are all worth fighting for.

Daniel Sullivan, 35, from Chelsea, said that his “mind isn’t made up yet,” but noted that he met O’Malley at a dinner at Harvard years ago and that he “appreciate[s] his genuineness and his philosophical vision for the country.”