Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley discusses $15 minimum wage, University of Missouri

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Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley finishes his talk by serenading the audience Thursday night at Hogg Auditorium.
Photo Credit: Christina Severson | Daily Texan Staff

Democratic presidential contender Martin O’Malley showed students and faculty a more personable side of himself than he presents on primary debate stages during a talk at Hogg Auditorium Thursday evening.

O’Malley, a former Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor, stepped off the stage to interact more closely with the crowd and detail the merits of his economic plan over his counterparts.

“We should raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour however we can and wherever we can,” O’Malley said. “When workers earn more, they spend more, [and] our economy grows.”

Throughout the talk, O’Malley heavily stressed his economic plan to increase wages, expand Social Security, approve paid family leave legislation and pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Computer science freshman Ramsey Hashem, a supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, said he was impressed with O’Malley’s economic policies and his approach to college voters.

“I think he definitely sounded hopeful for his chances in the future,” Hashem said. “If you look at the Republican caucus in 2012, [Sen.] Rick Santorum [R-Penn.] won the Iowa caucus, so anything can happen.”

With frontrunner Hillary Clinton and Sanders leading the polls with 52 and 33 percent, O’Malley placed a distant third at five percent in a CBS News/New York Times poll released Thursday.

O’Malley said he has improved from his initial polling position from the summer and said he believes early polling never reflects the eventual outcome of the primaries.

Tejas Club vice president Connor Hughes said he thought O’Malley’s personable approach — including a sing-along guitar performance after the talk – reached a lot of students in the auditorium.

“I really liked how he catered to the young crowd,” Hughes said. “Talking to him in the backstage and beforehand, he was very excited about the event and he definitely was just here to meet the students and get engaged with them.”

On the recent protests over racial inequality at the University of Missouri, O’Malley said he believes the movement could be a “crowdsourced healing of the deepest kind” and that it calls for more effective leadership and transparency in the country.

Hashem said O’Malley lacked a well-defined answer on the Mizzou protests.

“I think he beat around the bush a little bit,” Hashem said. “I think definitely at the next debate, he’ll have a much more polished answer.”

O’Malley will take part in the second Democratic debate against Sanders and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Iowa this Saturday.