At this point in the primary season, Martin O'Malley, the former mayor of Baltimore and a two-term governor of Maryland, probably has as good a chance as anyone else who's entered the 2016 presidential race. Except that he's really running against Hillary Clinton.

O'Malley, who announced he's running for president on Saturday in Baltimore, faces a slate of presidential hopefuls that has swollen to a ponderous 12 candidates since April, and is expected to grow to 20 campaigners. But O'Malley is only the third Democratic challenger, competing against former secretary of state Clinton, and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders.

And political experts say, barring any serious missteps or revelation of a scandal in her past, the serious money rests with the former first lady. So his bid is likely to be a long shot.

"It is pretty clear Martin O'Malley is running for vice president," says John Hudak, a fellow in government studies at Brookings Institution, the public policy think tank in Washington, D.C. "He recognizes the challenges that any Democrat faces in beating Clinton."

In the latest Quinnipiac poll on presidential matchups, Clinton polls the highest, winning 46 percent of the vote in a general election. Republican hopeful Rand Paul comes in second, polling at 42 percent. And among Democratic voters, Clinton wins 57 percent of the vote, to Sanders 15 percent.

Just the same, O'Malley's 15 years of state-level executive experience in one of the most economically successful states in the nation can't be dismissed lightly. And as a business owner, you naturally have a stake in the outcome. Here's what you should know about the would-be president. 

O'Malley on Business

On issues that matter for business owners, he supports immigration reform, is pro-union, and has supported tax increases as well as increases to the minimum wage in his state. On social issues, he supports strong gun control laws, women's reproductive rights and LGBT rights.

"The CEO of Goldman Sachs let his employees know he would be fine with either Bush or Clinton [for president]," O'Malley said over the weekend. He sounded a strongly populist note that took aim at both Clinton and Jeb Bush, a former governor of Florida, who is expected to declare his campaign for president in the coming weeks.

"I've got news for the bullies of Wall Street, the president is not a crown to be passed back and forth between two royal families," O'Malley added.

During his tenure as governor, O'Malley raised the state's sales and gasoline taxes, the latter to fund transportation infrastructure projects. He also raised state income taxes for people earning more than $100,000 and households earning more than $150,000 annually. While sales taxes are often viewed as regressive, levying higher income taxes among the wealthy is considered progressive in nature. 

Record of Success

O'Malley took over the governorship prior to the year the nation plunged into economic recession, and although Maryland was not hit as hard as other states during that time, it is also one of 18 states that have recovered all of the jobs lost during the financial crisis. The state's total number of jobs for the full year 2014, however, was scarcely above pre-recession levels in 2007.

Nevertheless, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce rated Maryland the No. 1 state for entrepreneurship and innovation in 2013, and one of the top 10 for overall economic performance nationwide.

"Governors are held to [be] accountable for economic development, and O'Malley had a pretty successful economic development program," says Robert Shapiro, senior policy scholar at Georgetown's Center for Business and Public Policy. "Maryland has done pretty well relative to other states in the region like Virginia and Pennsylvania."

Room for Improvement

Despite his various economic successes, O'Malley's governorship was marred by a poor roll-out of the state's health-care exchange under the Affordable Care Act in 2013, for which he was widely criticized. The snafus included lost applications and long waits to sign up, and necessitated a revamping of the entire exchange.

As mayor of Baltimore between 1999 and 2007, O'Malley is also known for initiating so-called broken windows policing, which heavily penalizes perpetrators of petty crimes as a way, so the theory goes, of preventing more serious crimes. Some political observers say those policies can be tied to the situation that ended in the death of Freddie Gray earlier this spring, which led to the civil unrest in the city.

Nevertheless, O'Malley's record on crime could provide an opening for a discussion on race and income disparity in the debates, among all the candidates. And that could give O'Malley an opportunity to take center stage.

"O'Malley has to discuss race relations and police brutality and crime in a nuanced way," Hudak says. "That will be the test for him as a legitimate and talented politician."

Published on: Jun 1, 2015