Presidential candidate Martin O’Malley speaks at UC Berkeley

Karin Goh/Senior Staff

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Former governor of Maryland and Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley addressed a packed audience of UC Berkeley students and community members Wednesday afternoon in Sibley Auditorium.

The candidate, who is currently third in prospective polls behind Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, spoke for roughly an hour on a broad swath of issues, focusing on his call for “action, not words” and economic recovery. The event was co-hosted by the Berkeley Forum — a campus organizations that hosts talks, panels and debates — and Cal Berkeley Democrats.

In a brief stump speech, O’Malley received applause for his work on gun control and public education as mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland. The former governor then invited volunteers to the front of the room to participate in a demonstration of income inequality in the United States.  

“Through your own hard work, you should be able to get ahead,” O’Malley said. “That has earned us a brand that no other nation on the planet has earned — the land of opportunity, and we need to restore that opportunity again.”

O’Malley also admonished “fascist demagoguery from people like Donald Trump.” Nihal Singh, a campus student from O’Malley’s home state of Maryland, took issue with O’Malley’s characterization of Trump.

Singh, who has pledged his support to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called O’Malley “the lone voice of sanity” at the most recent Democratic debate but criticized his response to Trump’s call to bar Muslims from entering the country.

According to Singh, “calling (Trump) a fascist demagogue is utilizing the same rhetoric” that Trump did.

After roughly 30 minutes of monologue, the candidate accepted questions that were preapproved by the Berkeley Forum.

According to Suher Adi, communications director of Cal Dems, the presidential candidate’s staff reached out to the organization Friday, who quickly worked to arrange the event with the Berkeley Forum.

Matthew Freeman, president of the Berkeley Forum, said that O’Malley was an “important voice in the national discussion right now” and that it was “valuable to have the chance to host him.”

O’Malley is the first presidential candidate to visit campus in the 2016 election cycle, and said he “wanted to come because Berkeley is a dynamic campus full of compassionate students.” Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, visited campus in March 2014 before he entered the race.

Speaking to the lack of candidate attention, Adi said that “(California) is known to vote Democrat regardless; we’re not a swing state,” and that when candidates come, “they’re coming to say hi” instead of campaigning.

After the end of the talk, O’Malley was swarmed by students eager to be pictured with him. The candidate then left to attend a fundraiser in San Francisco. His first electoral challenge, the Iowa caucuses, will take place Feb. 1.

Contact Austin Weinstein at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @aweinstein5.