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In 2016 US presidential race, newly populist O'Malley targets Clinton

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has joined the race for the 2016 Democratic nomination. The onetime Hillary Rodham Clinton loyalist warned the frontrunner that the presidency was not her "crown" for the taking.

O'Malley cast himself as an alternative to Democratic frontrunner Clinton - the world's second most powerful woman. Describing the American dream as "hanging by a thread," O'Malley highlighted income inequality and pledged to close "a growing gap of injustice" should he prevail in his uphill challenge.

"Our economic and political system is upside down and backwards and it is time to turn it around," O'Malley told hundreds of supporters in a park overlooking downtown Baltimore. "Tell me how it is that not a single Wall Street CEO was convicted of a crime related to the 2008 economic meltdown," he said. "Not a single one."

The two-term tough-on-crime Baltimore mayor enters as an unknown to most Americans. Many might be better acquainted with Tommy Carcetti, the fictional Baltimore mayor and eventual Maryland governor on the television series "The Wire" whose career trajectory mirrors O'Malley's.

Protests over the death of Freddie Gray have highlighted police tactics that O'Malley instituted as mayor, dropping the reported crime rate but increasing accusations of official racism. O'Malley's two gubernatorial terms receive better reviews. He signed legislation that raised Maryland's minimum wage, repealed the death penalty for future offenders, legalized same-sex marriage, and granted in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants attending universities.

'Not a crown'

Tacking populist, O'Malley said the CEO of Goldman Sachs told employees that "he'd be just fine" with Republican Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton as president. "I've got news for the bullies of Wall Street," O'Malley said. "The presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth by you between two royal families."

Clinton lived in the White House with her husband, Bill, from 1993-2001. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a Republican frontrunner yet to declare, is the brother of ex-President George W. (2001-09) and son to George H.W., the president from 1989 to '93 and second-in-command to Ronald Reagan from 1981 to '89.

In the Democratic race, O'Malley polls at less than 1 percent, compared to Clinton's 63.6 percent and about 9 percent for the 73-year-old socialist Bernie Sanders. With just three candidates so far, Democrats are running a sleek race sleek compared to the bloated stampede seeking the Republican nomination.

Eight candidates have joined that race, with at least eight more almost certain to jump in. Just last week, former three-term New York Governor George Pataki declared his candidacy and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum added his name.

mkg/jr (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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