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O'Malley would make Baltimore central to campaign

Martin O'Malley
Martin O'Malley

A fired up Martin O'Malley said Sunday he will make what happened in Baltimore a central theme of his would-be presidential campaign, despite criticism from some about his own policing policies during his time as mayor.

"I did not dedicate my life to making Baltimore a safer and more just place because it was easy.  And I am more inclined and more deeply motivated now to address what's wrong with our country and what needs to be healed and what needs to be fixed," the former Maryland governor said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

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"We haven't had an agenda for American cities for at least two decades," he said.

O'Malley has faced questions for his "zero tolerance" policing strategy during his time in City Hall. The city made tens of thousands of arrests for minor crimes, many of which were never prosecuted. In early primary states, O'Malley has frequently touted the sharp reduction in violent crime that took place under his watch.

O'Malley used the interview to point to his administration's efforts to increase drug treatment funding and also noted he was reelected as mayor with strong support from African-American precincts.

"We didn't get it wrong then, but we have yet to get it entirely right," he said.

"This now sounds like you want to make it central to any campaign," NBC's Chuck Todd asked O'Malley.

"I think it has to be central," O'Malley responded.

"So you'll probably announce in Baltimore?" Todd asked.

"I wouldn't think of announcing anyplace else," O'Malley said. "This has been a setback for us, Chuck, but our story is not over.  We are not defeated as a city, and we are not about to throw in the towel on our country."

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The Freddie Gray case, and the riots that erupted in the city on Monday, dominated the discussion on the Sunday political shows. All but one of the major programs booked an elected leader from Maryland to answer questions about how to avoid future violence.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake, who also appeared on Meet the Press, defended her handling of the riots on Monday. The mayor has faced criticism from some that she was not as visible as she could have been and did not seek help from the state until the situation was already out of control.

"That's really not my focus," Rawlings-Blake said. "Now we are working to reapir the damage that was done."

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings said he was comfortable with State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby's decision to charge six police officers in Gray's death

"I feel very comfortable with regard to what Ms. Mosby has done," Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat,  said on ABC's "This Week." "Her integrity is impeccable, without a doubt."

"I think she made the very best decision that she could," he added.

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Cummings, who has been marching with protesters in Baltimore since Monday, called for an "inclusion revolution," addressing issues such as joblessness and investing in children and cities in order to prevent future incidents nationwide. He also advocated for a careful examination of Baltimore's police department.

"We need to have an up-and-down look at it and be honest and address it in an effective way," Cummings said.

Cummings added that he thought the city had done "pretty good" in the response to Gray's death, with the exception of rioting Monday.

"It was a very unfortunate incident with Freddie Gray, a young man who died a very tragic death, but as far as Baltimore's concerned, I thought initially we had a lot of problems on Monday but I think overall it's been a lot of peaceful protest, and that's a good thing," Cummings said.

The two Democrats running for Senate in Maryland also appeared on the Sunday shows.

Rep. Donna F. Edwards, a Prince George's County Democrat, said that law enforcement becomes the only face of government that some communities see. She argued that those residents should instead see more spending in schools and economic development.

"There is an over-policing that's going on not just in Baltimore but also across this country," Edwards said on Fox News Sunday. "That's not the fault of police, that's the fault of policymakers that are making decisions."

Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County, talked about the need to direct additional federal funding to communities in places like Baltimore. Van Hollen is the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee.

"There are a whole constellation of problems here, but there are some systematic underlying problems that should be addressed by government, both at the local level, the state level and the federal level," Van Hollen said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"The debate that is going on right now in Washington, while it's often abstract in terms of numbers and documents, the real-world impact it can have will make a difference in people's lives," he said.

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