Former Maryland Governor O'Malley launches White House bid

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley (left) speaks as his wife Katie looks on during an event to announce his candidacy for a presidential campaign on May 30, 2015 at Federal Hill Park in Baltimore, Maryland. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley (left) speaks as his wife Katie looks on during an event to announce his candidacy for a presidential campaign on May 30, 2015 at Federal Hill Park in Baltimore, Maryland. -- PHOTO: AFP 

BALTIMORE, Maryland (Reuters) - Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley blasted social injustice and Wall Street excesses on Saturday as he announced he will seek the Democratic Party's 2016 presidential nomination as an alternative to frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

"We cannot rebuild the American Dream here at home by catering to the voices of the privileged and the powerful," said O'Malley, who has aggressively courted the Democratic Party's liberal wing.

He launched his 2016 White House campaign at a waterfront park in downtown Baltimore, where he began his political career first as a member of city council and then as mayor.

"Powerful, wealthy special interests here at home have used our government to create, in our own country, an economy that is leaving a majority of our people behind," he said.

Decrying big banks as having been behind the financial crisis of 2008, O'Malley singled out Goldman Sachs for particular criticism. He said that Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein had recently told his employees that "he'd be just fine" with either Republican Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton as president after the November 2016 election.

"Well, I've got news for the bullies of Wall Street,"O'Malley said. "The presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth by you between two royal families."

Hillary Clinton is the wife of former President Bill Clinton while Jeb Bush, who has not yet formally announced his candidacy but is already seen as a frontrunner among Republican hopefuls, is son and brother of former Presidents George HW Bush and George W Bush.

After the rally, O'Malley will leave for campaign stops in Iowa and New Hampshire, the states holding the earliest party nominating contests next year.

O'Malley's launch came at an uneasy time for Baltimore, which was rocked in recent weeks by riots over the death of Freddie Gray, a young black man, from injuries sustained while in police custody.

Many residents have said the former mayor's "zero tolerance" crime policies led to increased police brutality.

O'Malley's honed his liberal credentials over two four-year terms as governor. During his tenure, O'Malley signed legislation that raised Maryland's minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, repealed the death penalty for future offenders in the state, legalised same-sex marriage, and granted in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants attending Maryland's public universities.

Though O'Malley's legislative victories were popular with liberals, the laws on same-sex marriage and in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants were challenged by voter referendum in 2012. Both were upheld by a majority of voters and survived.

He is the third candidate to bid formally for the Democratic nomination following earlier announcements from Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. So far, eight Republicans have entered the race for their party ticket, with a number of other likely candidates waiting in the wings.

O'Malley, 52, was born in Washington, DC, and raised there and in Maryland. He attended the Catholic University of America in Washington and received his law degree from the University of Maryland. He lives in Maryland with his wife, a judge, and their four children.