MILLCREEK — Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democratic candidate for president in 2016, made a stop Tuesday at Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams' congressional campaign headquarters to rally volunteers.
"Doesn't it feel good to fight for a candidate you can be proud of?" O'Malley asked about 40 volunteers crowded into the main room of an office located on 33rd South, calling McAdams "a collaborative leader."
He said he'd just met with McAdams, who was filming a TV commercial and did not attend the event as initially scheduled. McAdams is in a close race with Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, for the 4th Congressional District seat.
O'Malley said McAdams puts aside political ideology for "what serves people best," citing the mayor's experience earlier this year walking and sleeping among the homeless in Salt Lake City's Rio Grande neighborhood.
"That's exactly what our Congress needs, doesn't it? People who attack our problems instead of each other," O'Malley said, adding that momentum is shifting away from Republicans in states won by President Donald Trump.
"Darkness makes a great canvas," he said, describing a "brighter picture" of solidarity, "that we're all in this together, that we need each other, we have to help each other if we're going to succeed," regardless of party.
Independents, Republicans and Democrats all want the same things for their children, O'Malley said. "We actually need a government that functions, that finds common ground for the common good."
His message to the volunteers who make calls, knock on doors and distribute campaign materials was that they have ability to win the 4th District race. The former Baltimore mayor went on to tell an historic anecdote about the city's role in the War of 1812.
The ability to restore what he called a "spirit of moderation" rests with the campaign volunteers, O'Malley said. "Our love for each other hasn't been lost. It's just been mislaid. You all need to go out and find it."
O'Malley's stop, followed by a visit to another Democratic congressional candidate, Shireen Ghorbani, was part of his national Win Back Your State effort that's seen as a step towards a 2020 run for the White House. Ghorbani is challenging Rep. Chris Stewart in Utah's 2nd District.
O'Malley said he has traveled to 28 states on behalf of more than 90 candidates, mostly for open state legislative seats because Democrats have gotten away from focusing on winning back state and local office.
After his speech, O'Malley told a reporter he believes McAdams has "a great chance" to win. "I've been in enough states for enough candidates now you can start to see certain themes emerge in terms of public mood, desire and timing."
To beat a two-term incumbent, O'Malley said McAdams has to outwork Love and "offer a message and a way of leadership that is a clear departure from the rather cruel and mean-spirited partisanship of our most recent past."
That means Trump, he said, adding "what people have seen coming off their television sets on the national news" not only makes most voters unhappy, it helps Democrats.
The region's "pioneering spirit," he said, makes voters more attuned to actions by Trump seen as eroding the rule of law and "undermining fair play, if you will, on the national stage."
Love's campaign manager, Dave Hansen, said O'Malley is "a typical big government, tax-raising, pro-choice, eastern liberal Democrat" who came to Utah "to try to help one of his own."
Hansen said that's "not what Utah wants or needs, but Ben McAdams must think it is what he needs."