By Ana Faguy
In a room filled with young and old, black and white, seasoned political activists and first-timers, the Our Revolution movement took the next step Thursday in its efforts to make former NAACP president Ben Jealous the next governor of Maryland.
The standing-room only event at the Silver Spring Civic Center was headlined by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who made a full-throated endorsement of Jealous. It was a major step forward for the candidate as the Democratic field for governor gets more and more crowded.
Nina Turner, a former Ohio state senator and president of Our Revolution, the group that grew out of Sanders’ 2016 White House campaign, spoke with spirit about the potential that comes with selecting candidates who work on behalf of the people.
“His truth is with him every step of the way,” Turner said of Jealous. “Titles are good but purpose is better.”
Sanders introduced Jealous and offered much of the same rhetoric from his presidential campaign, attacking President Trump and talking about issues like criminal justice reform, health care, education and equal pay for equal work.
The senator from Vermont did not hold back. He attacked the president and his agenda head on, and received thunderous applause from the crowd of several hundred supporters as he contrasted what Trump hasn’t done to what Jealous will do on the state level.
“He’s going to bring people into government from all walks of life,” Sanders said.
Many attendees came wearing Sanders and Feel the Bern memorabilia. It was clear that most people were there to hear Sanders but willing to listen to Jealous.
Cindy Stock, a Silver Spring native, came to the event at a friend’s urging. The last time she was politically active she was in high school, but said Sanders gives her hope.
“Bernie and by extension his supporters have something positive to bring to the otherwise cesspool of politics,” Stock said.
Clarence Steinberg and Ramona Matthews, also of Silver Spring, were leaning against a wall in the humid Civic Center eager to hear what Jealous had to say. Neither has backed a candidate for governor in 2018 but there was an initial appeal from the Sanders connection.
Steinberg added that he’s “not going to support a person the public doesn’t like.”
This endorsement gives Jealous momentum for the Democratic primary, and proves his political team is capable of pulling together a sizeable crowd. But it’s hard to tell how much it will matter in a Democratic state where the majority of voters favor what the first-term Republican governor has been doing.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, tech entrepreneur Alec Ross and attorney Jim Shea have already entered the race. State Sen. Rich Madaleno is scheduled to formally get in on Monday. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is expected to join the fray in the fall, while Rep. John Delaney and former Attorney General Doug Gansler are pondering whether to run.
“I’m running towards the people,” Jealous said. “I think Larry Hogan has a reason to be worried.”