In a statement released by the S.C. Democratic Party, O'Malley accepted the keynote speaker's position at the invitation of state Senator Vincent Sheheen from Camden, who is widely expected to repeat as the Democratic challenger to Republican Gov. Nikki Haley during her re-election in 2016. Sheheen spoke to O'Malley's experience in education and job growth in the wake of the economic downturn as reasons why he was chosen to lead the conference, "That is the kind of leadership we are lacking in South Carolina’s statehouse and his presence will bring valuable insight and experience to our discussions." The conference will take place on March 23 at West Ashley High School and costs $50 to attend.
Gov. O'Malley's appearance marks the first by a prospective Democratic presidential candidate in the Charleston area since the 2012 elections, and will likely touch off further talk about the 2nd-term governor's higher political ambitions. Last summer, S.C. Democratic Party Chair Dick Harpootlian told New England Cable News that O'Malley was one of a handful of Democrats he considered to be early favorites in 2016. Since South Carolina will once again host its first-in-the-South primary in 2016, O'Malley's visit probably won't be the last we hear about a presidential contender traveling to the Palmetto State in the coming months.
For more on the conference and to register, visit 2013issuesconference.eventbrite.com.