- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley on Wednesday called email allegations swirling around front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton a distraction and said the party is making a mistake if it lets it define the nomination contest.

“I think that it’s a huge distraction from what we should be talking about as a party,” he said.

Instead, he said more debates should be held among the candidates to address raising the minimum wage, repairing the country’s infrastructure and other issues. “Until we do, our party’s label is going to be the latest news du jour about emails and email servers and what Secretary Clinton knew and when she knew it.”

The former Maryland governor was answering a reporter’s questions in Las Vegas outside the Trump International Hotel. He was with unionizing workers when the topic of Clinton’s emails arose. O’Malley was there to speak to the Nevada AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention, a day after Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders made similar appearances before the labor union federation as each candidate vies for endorsements.

O’Malley has lagged behind Clinton and Sanders in polls and when told by a reporter that the latest results had him capturing 2 percent of polled would-be voters, O’Malley joked that his results had doubled.

O’Malley wouldn’t say if he thinks Clinton is being honest or not and says only that the former secretary of state and her lawyers can answer questions about the emails.

“I think we’re making a horrible mistake as a party if we allow our contest to be defined by the latest questions of the day about classified emails and Benghazi and all of those other things,” he said. “We need to talk about issues that are on the kitchen tables of every American and until we do, we’re just going to find ourselves getting kicked back into questions that Secretary Clinton and her lawyers can only answer.”

He says some people in the Democratic National Committee are “circling the wagons.”

“They see that every day the front-runner’s campaign is defined by the latest allegations of emails and the solution to that is to have debates. Not to circle the wagon. Not to cut off debate. Not to become the un-Democratic party,” he said.

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