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Field of Presidential Candidates Grows

Chesapeake Bay Program/World Economic Forum-cc

John Burger - published on 06/02/15 - updated on 06/08/17

Martin O'Malley and Lindsey Graham join race for the White House

Like corn shoots popping up out of the spring earth, the field of presidential hopefuls for 2016 is getting more and more crowded. 

Over the weekend, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley became the third declared Democratic candidate, and Monday morning, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham joined an already populous Republican field.

Lincoln Chafee, a former Republican senator who became a Democrat while governor of Rhode Island, is expected to announce this week. 

O’Malley, 52, became the first Catholic Democrat to enter the 2016 contest when he announced on Saturday that he is running.

According to Religion News Service, he attended a parish elementary school in Bethesda, Md., and Jesuit-run Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C., then earned his undergraduate degree at the Catholic University of America in Washington.

He’s a pray-every-morning, church-every-Sunday (St. Francis of Assisi in Baltimore) believer who sent all four of his kids to Catholic schools. Democratic Party activist and author Jonathan Miller called him “the rare progressive to frame his strongly felt policy positions in the language of faith.”

But that’s probably not enough to win the esteem of many Catholics who will stumble over his support for legal abortion and same-sex "marriage." 

“I found the passage of marriage equality actually squares with the most important social teachings of my faith, which is to believe in the dignity of every person and to believe in our own responsibility to advance the common good,” he told The Des Moines Register in March.

According to an account by Byron York, O’Malley’s presidential-candidate-debut event in Baltimore featured lead-up speakers singing his praises, including a self-declared "LGBT" undocumented immigrant and a young man who hailed his upbrining by his "two mothers." 

O’Malley’s actions regarding immigrants will be looked upon more favorably by Catholic bishops and others. When countless unaccompanied undocumented children from Central America were streaming across the Southern border, the governor brought more than 2,200 of them to shelters in Maryland. He also signed a law allowing some undocumented immigrants to be eligible for in-state college tuition.

Graham also has positions more in line with the bishops’ view on immigration, but more for political reasons. Believing that his party risks losing more and more Hispanic voters, he has backed reform measures to address the presence in the US of millions of illegal immigrants, while backing stronger borders.

While Graham supported proposals for a constitutional amendment against same-sex "marriage" and for a ban on gay adoptions, he is in favor of allowing gay couples to be able to live “free and open” lives. He argued that if the Constitution is interpreted to grant a right to gay "marriage," it could also be interpreted as granting marriage rights to polygamists.

Graham, 59, has a strong pro-life voting record. But he also argues that absolute bans aren’t politically feasible and has tried to bridge the gap between absolutist bans and those who support exceptions.

On foreign policy, he tends to be more of a hawk than other Republicans running for president, as the Washington Post explains:

Graham argues the U.S. must engage early, often and widely in the world, criticizing American troop reductions in Iraq and Afghanistan and calling for more aggressive intervention in Syria’s civil war. He’d place 10,000 more U.S. troops in Iraq. Graham says a nuclear deal with the Iranians should “forbid them ever having the pathway to develop a nuclear weapon.” He opposes President Barack Obama’s moves to normalize relations with Cuba, but supports a charter extension for the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which helps finance exports of U.S. products such as jetliners.

Graham also defends the data collection efforts of the National Security Agency that are at the heart of the debate in Congress over anti-terrorism surveillance and civil liberties.

Graham, a retired Air Force colonel who served as a Judge Advocate, focused on national security and foreign policy in his speech Monday announcing that he is running for the White House. He made reference to China’s acquisition of territory in the South China Sea and of the conflict in Ukraine and said that "security through strength" is necessary for the United States to be safe.

"American weakness anywhere hurts us everywhere," he said.

Graham criticized the policies of former President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama, stating that Obama made the United States "less safe."

Contrary to Obama’s strategy of allowing Iraq to settle the problem with the Islamic State group, Graham believes that a force of 10,000 U.S. soldiers should be sent to train and support Iraqi security forces fighting against the jihadist group. "We will never enjoy peaceful coexistence with radical Islam," he said.

​He also said the greatest threat to the world is Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.

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