DAVENPORT, Iowa — One day after announcing his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley told a large crowd in this Mississippi River port city that if elected he would focus on job creation and rebuilding the American economy.
Speaking at an outdoor campaign event on the grounds of Rhythm City Casino, a few hundred feet from the Mississippi River, Mr. O’Malley unveiled what he called the Midwest portion of his plan to create millions of jobs by building thousands of casinos.
He outlined several aspects of the plan but did not provide concrete financial and logistical details. And he received enthusiastic applause when he highlighted the success of the 23 casinos in Iowa, specifically Rhythm City Casino, one of the few remaining dockside riverboat casinos in America.
Before his speech, Mr. O’Malley participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for construction to replace Rhythm City Casino with a new, land-based casino that will be larger and create more jobs in Davenport.
An O’Malley campaign aide said the ribbon cutting was an ideal event for the former Baltimore mayor to roll out elements of his job-creation plan. “We were ecstatic the mayor of Davenport and the local Chamber of Commerce invited the governor to participate in this momentous event,” the aide said.
In his speech, Mr. O’Malley cited the success, longevity, and expansion of Rhythm City Casino as a model for job creation in America. He also touted his achievement in opening casinos and job creation in Maryland as proof of the feasibility of his job-creation plan.
“We plan to take casino expansion across America, as we did in Maryland, and create millions of jobs, secure, long-term employment,” he announced.
Before his tenure as governor, there were no casinos in Maryland. During his two terms, Mr. O’Malley opened five casinos, which created thousands of jobs.
However, he suffered strong blowback for being too aggressive with casino expansion because of a failed attempt to open a so-called Hebrew-themed casino in affluent Montgomery County, which has a large, politically connected Jewish population.
The proposed casino was backed by billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a prominent Republican Party financial donor. Plans for the casino quickly imploded when the left-leaning Montgomery County government refused to consider any plan involving Mr. Adelson.
In a brief meeting with reporters after his speech, Mr. O’Malley said the situation with Mr. Adelson showed his fervor and commitment to job creation and willingness “to work with any job creator no matter their political leaning.”
“That was a tough fight, like this campaign is going to be,” he said. “And I’m used to tough fights though. Real leadership is about forging consensus, and I intend to forge a new consensus with new ideas about job creation in this country.”
He pledged to create millions of job and promised casinos “in every hamlet, township, town, city, and rural route in America.”
John Smith covers national politics.
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