Maryland Gov. O'Malley continues shots at Haley in Sheheen stump appearance

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (right) came to Charleston in his role as finance chair for the Democratic Governors Association to support state senator Vincent Sheheen in his run for South Carolina governor. The Charleston County Democratic Party held the event at The Alley on Friday.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley famously took pot-shots at Gov. Nikki Haley last year. And on Friday he picked up right where he left off.

With South Carolina's Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Vincent Sheheen by his side, O'Malley continued to paint Haley as indebted to the tea party and too ideologically rigid to govern effectively.

The message was largely directed at potential crossover voters Sheheen needs in November.

Haley "does things based on what the tea party wants done," O'Malley said. She is "incapable of really governing in an open and transparent way."

O'Malley's appearance - at the same time his daughter is graduating from the College of Charleston - came as he's considering a Democratic presidential challenge in 2016, though he quickly moved to quash any White House talk Friday.

South Carolina is an early primary state for Democrats as well as Republicans.

O'Malley's remarks, delivered to the press during a Sheheen fundraiser, were in the same vein as statements he gave in Charleston last year as finance chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

One line from that speech read "some of these new tea party Republican governors are funny in this regard, aren't they? They run on a platform claiming government isn't working. Then when they're in office, their own failure to do the job proves their point."

Friday, O'Malley expanded his Haley criticism. On at least six occasions, he associated troubled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie with Haley via the Republican Governor Association's recent run of anti-Sheheen TV ads critical of his criminal defense work.

Sheheen, a state senator from Camden, is a private practice attorney.

"They have good reason to be worried about this race," O'Malley said of the GOP buy.

"There are very few races I can think of in our country where eight months before a general election Chris Christie and the RGA have come in to dump millions of dollars of negative advertising on the Democratic candidate."

He added, "Let Chris Christe and all of the money of the RGA be damned. People of South Carolina are smart, and they are going to do what is in the best interest of themselves, their jobs and their children's futures."

For his part, Sheheen agreed with O'Malley's assessment of Haley's four years.

South Carolinians want "a governor that they can trust again, that they make sure will be there instead of having scandal after scandal, like Nikki Haley," he said.

Haley's campaign issued a statement in response saying South Carolina did not want to copy any part of O'Malley's administration.

"The people of South Carolina would much rather have Nikki Haley's results - record low unemployment, historic public education reform, billion dollar investment in roads and bridges and greater transparency in state government - than what Vince Sheheen would do to our state and what Martin O'Malley did to Maryland, including billions of dollars in higher taxes and fees and job-killing Obamacare expansion," said Rob Godfrey, Haley's spokesman.

O'Malley said he backed Sheheen for his platform of expanded kindergarten, something he said has helped Maryland children in the earliest grades.

"When South Carolina succeeds, the United States succeeds," he said of early education needs.

Outside the fundraiser, held at The Alley on Columbus Street, a lone woman held a sign meant to protest Sheheen and his work as a defense lawyer. She declined to identify herself, she said, out of fear of reprisals from criminals.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551