Borg: Martin O'Malley knows government. And he does it by the eights. Eight years on Baltimore, Maryland's City Council, another eight as the city's two-term Mayor and then another eight as the state's Governor. And he is now hoping to spend eight in the White House. Campaigning for the democratic nomination he is repeatedly citing what he sees as progressively leading Maryland as a template for how he'd lead the nation. Governor O'Malley, welcome back to Iowa Press.

O'Malley: Thanks, Dean. Thanks a lot for having me again.

Borg: And I know that you have an event coming up in Las Vegas on Tuesday. We thought we'd do a little prep here.

O'Malley: Oh good. You can never have enough prep. I've been prepping my brains out these last few days. Looking forward to the democratic debate.

Borg: You bet. And across the table, James Lynch writing for the Gazette published in Cedar Rapids and Radio Iowa's Kay Henderson.

Henderson: Governor, a recent Quinnipiac University poll said 59% of likely democratic caucus-goers here have so little knowledge about you that they can't even form an opinion. You have spent more time here than any of your other democratic competitors. What else can you do?

O'Malley: Well I think now that we're finally having these debates I think this will be in a way kind of the opening kickoff of the democratic primary. By this time eight years ago we had had nine debates so everyone had a sense of who the candidates were. So with the rather arrested development it has meant a later start to our season. But I'm encouraged by the reaction I'm getting all across Iowa. I've been now to 40 counties and we've gotten our name recognition up north of 40% from zero when we started just about 100 days ago and we still have another 104, 105 days until the Iowa Caucuses. So, Kay, I'm just going to continue to campaign the Iowa way and with one county after another and twelve, actually now today thirteen county chairs have endorsed our campaign and we're moving forward.

Henderson: Bernie Sanders wasn't exactly a household name in Iowa and he has catapulted himself into a competitive position with Secretary Clinton here. Why him and not you?

O'Malley: Well I think in the opening rounds of this presidential selection process that in both parties in our search for a new leader I believe that voters gravitated to those candidates that most firmly repudiated the establishment. And in the Republican Party that candidate was Donald Trump. And in our party it has been Bernie Sanders. But what people say to me whenever I'm in Iowa after they have come out and kindly heard what I have to offer and the vision for a future where our economy works for all of us again, people say I'm glad to know we have an alternative. I've never heard of you before. I'm glad I came out today. So that tells me people are shopping. People are looking for a new leader. And neither party ever nominates angry.

Lynch: Talking about the debates coming up on Tuesday night, David Axelrod, who is one of the architects of Barack Obama's success, said he expects you to provide the fireworks Tuesday night. He said, you're so far into asterisk land that unless you do something to light things up they're going to write you out of the script. So what sort of fireworks do you have in mind? Bottle rockets? M-80s?

O'Malley: I like David Axelrod but I think sometimes we all get ahead of ourselves in these things. I know for people that have been following this race for a long time this may look like the final two minutes of the game but I think this was actually the opening kickoff. So I'm looking forward to a debate where we actually discuss the ideas, like debt free college, raising the minimum wage, making wages go up rather than down, paying overtime pay for overtime work. I'm looking forward to a debate about the ideas that people care about around their kitchen table because, let's be honest, our country has come a long way since the Bush crash of 2008. We're creating jobs again. But our country doesn't work very well when 70% of us are earning the same or less than we did ten years ago. So we still have work to do. And people will be looking at the democratic candidates and what they have to offer. They've heard the republican candidates. Nothing new here. Double down on trickle-down economics.

Lynch: This is your chance to make a first impression then. So do you have to step it up?

O'Malley: I think the very fact that we're going out on that stage is a big step up. I am the only candidate on that stage who will be able to point to fifteen years of executive experience, actually pulling people together to get difficult things done, things that many of the other candidates will only be able to talk about, whether it was making college more affordable, making our schools number one, passing a living wage, passing comprehensive gun safety legislation, Dream Act, marriage equality. These are all things that I've gotten done. They were actions, they weren't words, and that is what people are looking for right now.

Borg: I can't pass up the opportunity to continue that football analogy that you said kickoff. If that's true and if you have to make the impression that Jim said here, what issue is it you're going to use to kick off all the way back for a touchdown?

O'Malley: You know, really, Dean, it's about getting things done. The two phrases I hear all across Iowa and all across our country are the phrases new leadership and getting things done.

Borg: But other candidates don't have that? Is that what you say differentiates you?

O'Malley: I believe it does. If you look at the other candidates there is no one else on that stage who will have fifteen years of executive experience as a big city mayor and as a governor. So as we talk about things like criminal justice reform or affordable college, I've actually done these things. And so my proposals have that air of credibility to them.

Borg: Let me take you to an issue here. Trans Pacific Partnership, TPP. It is at the edge of the news right now. In fact, your position opposing that puts you in direct opposition to a sitting democratic President. What do you know that he doesn't?

O'Malley: Well I think we have to learn from the mistakes of our past. I think NAFTA was a huge mistake for us. As a country we lost a lot of jobs, caused a lot of displacement. I was in Newton today where you used to have all sorts of people employed at Maytag and that is no more. First it moved to Mexico, then the jobs moved to China. So I believe we need to build up our own economy. I came out, by the way, Dean, against the Trans Pacific Partnership eight months ago. On the eve of the debate Secretary Clinton apparently has changed her position after advocating for it before and now she says that she is also against it. There are aspects of this deal like the ability of multinational corporations to actually sue our government to evade labor standards, to evade environmental standards and all of this is a blind rush for cheaper labor abroad. I don't think that helps our country. Another distinguishing issue will be Wall Street reform and which of us actually has the independence to take on the big mega banks who are gambling on Wall Street. We're all still on the hook for it. We haven't completed our promise that we gave to people that we would rein in that sort of reckless behavior so it wouldn't happen again. People want a president who will be on their side in these fights not somebody that follows polls.

Henderson: Clinton is now on your side on this issue -- your indictment is --

O'Malley: Which one?

Henderson: Hillary Clinton on the TPP.

O'Malley: She has changed on a few issues. Keystone Pipeline was another one.

Henderson: So now that she is against that as well as the TPP are you suggesting that her positions are unsure, that people should look at them askance?

O'Malley: What I'm saying is that in all of my years of executive service, executive leadership, I have always understood where I stood. I understood the important principles that unite us as a people. I don't believe -- I think there's a big difference between leading, between forging a new consensus and following a poll. And I believe that what people are tired of in politics as usual are candidates that won't be straight with us, that won't tell us what the problem is, what the solution set is, unless it is poll tested and the focus groups tell us it's okay.

Henderson: So you think she's not being straight with Americans?

O'Malley: I think that in my experience I have always been straight with people, even on very difficult issues involving criminal justice, public safety. When I ran for Mayor of Baltimore in 1999 it wasn't because our city was doing well. We had to turn that around. And that's the sort of leadership that I think people want. And I believe that Secretary Clinton can come on this show and answer for herself why she shifted her positions on so many issues over the course of these last few months. I was against Trans Pacific Partnership eight months ago. I was against Keystone eight months ago. I have put out the most comprehensive plan for Wall Street reform that also calls for reinstating Glass-Steagall so we're not all on the hook for bailing out the mega banks when their bets go bad. She has yet to come to that position but I'm hopeful she will. I hope we forge a new consensus on this stage for any number of issues and that's what a campaign should be about. But it's also about leadership, it's about who has the ability to actually step up and do the difficult things that need to be done regardless of whether they're popular.

Lynch: Speaking of difficult things, you mentioned your opposition to NAFTA and CAFTA. Are those trade deals that you would revisit and try to renegotiate or reject at this point? As you said, it cost jobs for the people in Newton. Can we go back and redo those?

O'Malley: Yeah I think that's very hard but I tell you what is not hard to do, is to slow down and put the brakes on, on further accelerating the displacement that is inherent in this global economy. But there's also a lot of opportunities in this global economy as well. What we need to get back to as a nation is actually making the investments in our own country again that create the jobs that we need rebuilding and modernizing our infrastructure. I'm the only candidate that has called for moving us to a 100% clean electric grid by 2050. That too is jobs. The world doesn't stand still but we need to make these investments in our own country's future and no one else is going to do them for us. And the other thing that we need to do is restore wage and labor policies back to the center of our economic choices. That's something we've gotten away from. In other words, our economy is not money, it is people. And we need to consciously and intentionally advance innovations, improve the skills of our people and make the investments necessary to create the new jobs that are inherent in these new challenges.

Henderson: There are some people in the union movement who are advocates of expanding the Keystone XL Pipeline because of the jobs. What do you say to their argument?

O'Malley: Oh, I say that there's a lot more jobs in embracing a clean energy future. There's a lot of work to be done, Kay, in terms of smart grid, there's work to be done in terms -- look at the 4,000 people employed I the wind industry here in Iowa. Those jobs weren't there ten, fifteen years ago. They're here now. And I believe that the Keystone Pipeline is not a good deal for the United States and I believe that the small number of jobs it creates pales in comparison to what we could be creating by laying smart grid, renewable grid, connecting the wind to population centers and also harnessing offshore wind off the Atlantic Coast and solar in the deserts near California. These are the things that should be calling us forward and we could create 5 million jobs in embracing this new future.

Henderson: You have been talking about Wall Street reform for several months. In the past couple of weeks Donald Trump and some of the republican candidates have talked about reconfiguring U.S. tax policy to tax Wall Street in terms of carried interest. As president, would you advocate those kinds of changes to the tax code to affect Wall Street investors?

O'Malley: Yes. And I think you see a growing body of evidence saying that we should end the carried interest loophole and lots of us in the Democratic Party anyway are advocating that there be a transactions fee or financial speculation fee on those transactions which could generate considerable amount of revenues and also tamp down some of this risky high volume behavior on Wall Street. But most importantly and most fundamentally and one of the big differences still within the democratic rank of candidates is that we need to reinstate Glass-Steagall. Yes, we should have robust prosecutorial deterrents, we need to police Wall Street. But Glass-Steagall worked for 70 years. We need to separate speculative gambling and that sort of so-called banking from the traditional commercial banking. We should ensure the traditional commercial banking so there aren't runs on banks, so deposits are protected. But we shouldn't be on the hook for bad bets by these big mega banks. When we repealed Glass-Steagall in 1997 and allowed these banks to merge, the six big banks went from having 20% of, controlling 20% of the assets, to having 60% of the assets. And it's not good for our country, it puts our economy in just as grave danger of being crashed by irresponsible behavior on Wall Street and we need a president who is independent enough to step up and protect us from that.

Borg: Governor, before Jim continues here, as I listen to you, you have repeatedly said, these are positions that I have held for some time, others are coming to positions that I, or switching to positions that I've had for a long time. And yet where you are in the polls doesn't indicate that. Is there something else going on in this campaign, this election, other than issues?

O'Malley: Well there's -- I believe what we've had is a delayed start to these democratic debates and I think that once we start having the debates and people realize that there's more than two candidates in the Democratic Party's contest, I think you're going to see a different dynamic, Dean. And already across Iowa and where I've spent a great deal of time we're getting a lot of support from county chairs and from activists and that's what it takes to surprise in the caucuses. I'm not in a terribly different position than many people who went on to win the caucuses who were not the candidates who were peaking in September or October. In fact, as you all know from your own good work here, the candidate who is peaking in September or October isn't the candidate that surprises on caucus night.

Lynch: One of the other issues you have been vocal on is stricter gun control and saying that we need to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them. Is the best approach a federal approach, sort of a one-size-fits-all gun legislation? Or is this an issue better left to the states where laws can be crafted that sort of reflect the traditions and interests of those states and the people who live there?

O'Malley: Well we passed comprehensive gun safety legislation in the state of Maryland and as we did that we protected and preserved the great hunting traditions and sporting traditions that we have in Maryland as well. It's actually possible to do both. The difficulty with the patchwork approach though has to do with the trafficking in illegal guns. If you look at the numbers of people killed by guns in our country I think it has been over 400,000 since the attacks of September 11th. We have lost 3,800 to terror attacks but we've lost 400,000 citizens to gun violence. We're the only country, advanced nation on the planet, that has this problem with violence. So I put forward a comprehensive plan that would not only ban combat assault weapons in our country but would also require background checks, universal background checks with fingerprinting and licensing and we call upon our federal government -- do you know what the largest purchaser of guns is in the nation? It's our own federal government and we should use that buying power to insist that gun manufacturers actually use the highest and best safety technology, like microstamping and also the serial numbers that can't be erased or effaced from the weapons. And then the fourth piece of it is we should make the trafficking in illegal guns a federal felony and a crime. Right now there's no deterrence to it. And so those are the approaches that I plan to advocate for as president and if some states get there ahead of time God bless them.

Lynch: When you talk about keeping the guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them, has the horse already left the barn? There are more than 300 million guns out there now. Are we addressing this problem too late?

O'Malley: Well, certainly we're addressing the problem too late but that doesn't mean that we can't save lives moving forward. So I think we should stop --

Lynch: Can we do that short of gun confiscation?

O'Malley: Yes. We didn't do gun confiscation in Maryland but we certainly did put in -- if you look at the guns that are used, top ten guns that flow in from out of state to New York you won't find Maryland on that list last year because we have been able to reduce the, we closed the so-called Charleston loophole, we closed the gun show loophole. There are common sense things we need to do and most of the public understands that. In fact, a lot of hunters as well. So we can have hunting traditions in our country and also save a lot of lives by reducing the proliferation of these guns that are flowing often times illegally into people's hands that shoot and kill other Americans.

Henderson: But how do you end the long-standing duel in Congress at the federal level over gun safety legislation?

O'Malley: Well we've got to have the courage to stand up to powerful special interests like the NRA and talk about what is in the best interest of our country and not only talk about it but actually do it. We have to forge a new consensus --

Henderson: So President Obama has been talking about it every time there's a mass shooting. What is he doing wrong?

O'Malley: Well, look, every two years we have the opportunity to vote for a new Congress and just as we can acknowledge that none of us will be here forever, neither will this particular obstructionist republican Congress. And so these elections are always an opportunity to elect a new Congress and in the national elections a new President.

Borg: Suppose you go into the same situation now though with a republican Congress. What would you do? Could you do what you want to do with executive orders?

O'Malley: We'll have to do -- some of the things we could. I mean, using the federal government's buying power to insist on a higher standards of technology and safety in the manufacturing of firearms we could do. And we'll have to continue to work to forge a new consensus. Dean, many of the things, many of the difficult things I got done as a Governor weren't accomplished juts by wishing or hoping them so. Some of them we only accomplished, like the death penalty or marriage equality, with a few republican votes. Some of them, like the comprehensive gun safety legislation, I had to overcome opposition in my own party. The Senate President in my own party was opposed to that legislation. So none of this is easy. That's what leadership is about and that is what a representative government should be about. We're going through a bad stretch right now with probably some of the worst gridlock and polarization we've seen in our politics in modern times. But I believe we can come through this with new leadership.

Lynch: Is a new president enough new leadership? Or you talked about every two years we get a chance to elect a new Congress. Most people are saying that whoever is elected in 2016 will have a republican Senate and House. How do you work with a dysfunctional Congress? What can you do differently to get better results, to get any results?

O'Malley: Part of that tone is set by all of us in the course of this national election and part of it is also a matter of always, always, always calling the legislature, in this case the Congress, calling people in your own party, calling people in the opposing party, talking to members of Congress as the human beings that they are and searching for common ground. It doesn't happen by itself but it's something I have learned to do in fifteen years of executive service. You have to call the legislators all the time, even the ones that you know are bound to vote against you nine out of ten or 99% of the time.

Borg: Are you calling it report or empathy?

O'Malley: I think we call it dialogue in search of common ground for our common good.

Henderson: So what kind of dialogue would you spark in regards to immigration? Would you act first, in the first 100 days, as an executive, take executive orders to further that cause?

O'Malley: I believe that passing comprehensive immigration reform is one of the actions that we should take as a nation in order to get wages to rise rather than fall. There are others. Making sure the minimum wage stays above the poverty line. Paying overtime pay for overtime work. Making it easier for people to bargain collectively. But make no mistake --

Henderson: So that means congressional action, not executive action.

O'Malley: Well I think you have to do both. So in order to get wages to go up I think we have to get 11 million of our neighbors out of the underground economy and the off the books economy. But I also believe that we are mindlessly breaking up families with no good purpose in these deportations. And I would seek to extend executive action to cover even more individuals, many of whom only know this country as their country, who have family here, who have children who have been born here. I think we hurt our nation when we break up families for no good purpose. Now, public safety and protecting public safety and deporting people that are criminals and harm and hurt others, yes, have to do that. But we need to ease up on these mass, on these deportations that break up families.

Borg: You mentioned the minimum wage. In Iowa, Johnson County, heavily democratic, the county has passed a minimum wage increase incrementally. Is that the way that it should be done across the nation rather than a federal increase in the minimum wage? Let each state, each locality decide for themselves?

O'Malley: Yeah, I think you have to do both. In other words --

Borg: Both? What's both?

O'Malley: Both is this. I think the federal government needs to set a floor but we should not prevent counties or metro areas from going further given their cost of living and what it takes to be able to work and to raise a family in some of those areas. So the federal government should keep a floor and then states that can go higher and cities that can go higher should go higher. But there should be an expectation that federally we will get to a $15 minimum wage. There is not one example, Dean, since 1947, which I think is when we first started having a minimum wage, there's not one example of a jurisdiction raising the minimum wage and finding that it led to a flight of businesses and led to a flight of citizens trying to escape the higher minimum wage. On the contrary, when workers earn more money they spend it and the economy grows. So I think our federal government should pass a $15 minimum wage, phased in if you must over years, but if other counties can get there first -- in my own state I was only able to get us up to $10.10 before I left office. But two of our counties went to $12.80 and neither of those counties has reported the sort of cataclysmic suffering that many right wing sort of trickle down economists would have predicted.

Lynch: A skeptic listening to this program might say look at your agenda, raising the minimum wage, regulating Wall Street, opposing trade deals, taking on climate change and say, there's nothing new here, these ideas have been out there, they have been discussed and the public really hasn't fully embraced them in previous elections. So what is different this year? What is different in this election cycle that people are going to buy into Martin O'Malley's agenda?

O'Malley: Well I believe that the great concern throughout the country is that our children might not enjoy lives with greater opportunity, greater health and greater security than we have enjoyed. People are, even with the 67 months in a row of positive job growth, people are very, very concerned about their children's future and we have reason to be. Look at the swing of the pendulum just on the one issue of affordable college. My dad went to college on a GI Bill. My daughters graduated with a mountain of bills and they're not alone. We're saddling kids with a lifetime of debt just for doing what we expect and have them go to college. So I believe that people want action, not words. I believe that there is a yearning to actually get things done again as a country. And I hear it most distinctly when I talk to young Americans under 30 who don't want to bash immigrants like Donald Trump, they don't want to deny rights to gay couples or their children, and they understand that climate change is a very real threat and we must address it as a people and they want their government in this game.

Henderson: Governor, republicans’ last debate was at the Reagan Library. Your debate this coming week is in Vegas. Is there a better spot that is more emblematic of the Democratic Party?

Borg: A quick answer, we're out of time.

O'Malley: Yeah, there's a lot of good people who work hard in Las Vegas. I hope we'll have more debates.

Borg: Thank you so much for being with us.

O'Malley: Thank you, Dean.

Borg: Well next week on Iowa Press republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina campaigning to take her business executive experience to the White House. Carly Fiorina, 7:30 Friday night, noon Sunday. I'm Dean Borg. Thanks for joining us today.