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Martin O'Malley says he improved relations between police, community

Democratic presidential candidates Martin O'Malley at the NHDP annual Jefferson Jackson dinner in Manchester, N.H., Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter) ORG XMIT: otk
Democratic presidential candidates Martin O'Malley at the NHDP annual Jefferson Jackson dinner in Manchester, N.H., Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter) ORG XMIT: otk (Cheryl Senter / Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — Martin O'Malley emerged from a meeting with House Democrats on Tuesday with barbed criticism for his opponents, but no more confidence he would earn the support from other members of Congress in his long-shot bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"Between the sort of crony capitalism...and the proven failure that is socialism, there's a better way forward," O'Malley told reporters in a barely veiled reference to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. "There are profound differences in this race."

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He went on to criticize both Clinton and Sanders for their "old thinking."

O'Malley, the two-term Maryland governor who is trailing significantly in both polls and fundraising, said he doesn't t think the meeting with House lawmakers would change any minds immediately. Asked if he expected to receive more endorsements from Congress, O'Malley responded flatly: "No."

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"Well, not today, I should say," he added. "I certainly asked all the members if I could not today be their first choice, I would like today to be their second choice, and I look forward to their support in the future," O'Malley said. "I don't expect any endorsements today, and I do expect endorsements later in this process."

O'Malley has been endorsed by a single member of Congress, California Rep. Eric Swalwell. O'Malley, then Baltimore's mayor, spoke to Swalwell's class when he was a student at the University of Maryland years ago, and Swalwell later volunteered on O'Malley's 2005 gubernatorial campaign.

Asked about the early stages of the first trial of a Baltimore police officer charged in Freddie Gray's death, O'Malley said that "justice will be done" and that "the prosecutor has made her decision based on the evidence."

He then launched into a discussion of his own policing record in Baltimore, touting a reduction in fatal police-involved shootings and "things that actually work to make police departments more open and transparent.

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"All of these things can improve police and community relations," O'Malley said. "That's what I did while I was mayor, and that's what effective mayors across the country are doing."

O'Malley, who was Baltimore's mayor from the end of 1999 to January 2007, had an impact on city crime, overseeing the largest reduction in crime of any majority city during that time.

But claiming he improved community relations with the police in Baltimore is far more of a stretch: In fact, police made a significant number of arrests for minor crimes during his tenure, prompting a lawsuit by the NAACP and the ACLU in 2006 that alleged a broad pattern of abuse in which thousands of people were routinely arrested without probable cause.

The city settled the lawsuit in 2010 for $870,000, agreed to retrain officers and publicly rejected zero-tolerance policing.

His successor and one-time ally, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, issued a report last year that concluded the O'Malley mayorality "ignited a rift between the citizens and the police, which still exists today."

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