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Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley participates in the Democratic Candidates Debate hosted by NBC News and YouTube.
Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley participates in the Democratic Candidates Debate hosted by NBC News and YouTube. (Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

At the Democratic presidential debate in Charleston, S.C., Sunday night, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley defended his record in Baltimore and Maryland on criminal justice.

Asked about his crime policies in light of the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore police custody, O'Malley said Sunday night that "we weren't able to make our city immune from setbacks" but, "we were able to save a lot of lives."

O'Malley said he repealed the possession of marijuana as a crime and repealed the death penalty in the state. He said incarceration rates and violent crime rates dropped under his watch.

O'Malley also said investing in cities will be a top priority.  Asked about his priorities for his first 100 days in office, the former Maryland governor said Sunday that he would focus on efforts to boost wages, promote clean energy and enhance cities.

The former mayor of Baltimore said: "We have not had a new agenda for America's cities since Jimmy Carter."

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On climate change: O'Malley said the three candidates "actually believe in science." He said Democrats should commit to "a 100 percent clean electricity grid by 2050," leaning on solar and other sources instead of fossil fuels to power the nation.

On Wall Street:  O'Malley jumped into the debate over Wall Street regulation between his two Democratic rivals by alleging Hillary Clinton is being untruthful about the strength of her plans to reign in Wall Street excesses.

He jumped in quickly to say "that's not true," when Clinton said her plan for financial regulation has been called the toughest and most comprehensive. O'Malley says he would put "cops back on the beat of Wall Street."

O'Malley tried to make his mark early in a Democratic presidential debate that was expected to be dominated by Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

He was the only one of the three candidates to mention President Barack Obama and the Republican presidential field during opening statements.

He praised the president, who remains extremely popular among the Democratic base, and managed to tweak Clinton in the same note. "We need new leadership," O'Malley said. "We need to come together and build upon the good things that President Obama have done."

The GOP field, O'Malley said, has been defined by "anger."

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