Jealous Disrupts the Machine, Offers Major Contrast to Hogan in November

Maryland Democrats turned to a full-throated progressive in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, selecting former NAACP president Benjamin T. Jealous as their gubernatorial nominee. Jealous, who ran with the backing of former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and other national celebrities on the left, racked up 39.8 percent of the vote in a nine-candidate field, putting him 10.5 points ahead of his main rival, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, the choice of most of the state’s Democratic establishment, who had 29.3 percent. No other candidate cracked 10 percent of the vote. Democratic gubernatorial nominee Benjamin T. Jealous, with his children, prepares to address the crowd at his victory party in Baltimore Tuesday night. His running mate, Susan W. Turnbull, is in blue. U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings is at the far right. Photo by Samuel Manas   Jealous did particularly well in Baltimore City, where the civil rights group is headquartered and where Jealous’ family has roots.  He captured 43.3 percent of the vote in the city, and 41.6 percent of the ballots cast in Baltimore County. But Jealous ran strong just about everywhere – finishing first in Montgomery County with 36 percent, despite facing opponents with regional advantages there, and taking 37.8 percent in Prince George’s County, where Baker surprisingly was held to 49.9 percent. Jealous starts the general election as an underdog against Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), who remains one of the most popular governors in the nation despite the Democrats’ 2-1 advantage in voter enrollment. In remarks to supporters around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Jealous said: “Voters in Maryland now have a clear choice. We won this primary because we talked with the people about how to achieve the promise of Maryland. We have detailed proposals on fully funding education, creating tuition-free public college – and building an economy that works for everyone and revitalizes our great cities, including Baltimore.  “We’ve got a message for those who think this race is already over. Larry Hogan will lose in November because he is not ready to run against someone who knows a people-powered campaign.”  Hogan and his supporters seemed well aware of the contrasts between him and his challenger, and quickly sought to exploit them. In a late-night tweet, Hogan wrote,“Congratulations to @BenJealous on a hard fought victory. I look forward to a vigorous debate on the direction of our state and the issues that matter most to Marylanders.” But other Republicans were less conciliatory. Ben Jealous’ radical views make him unfit to serve as governor,” said Jon Thompson, a spokesman for the Republican Governors Association. “Ben Jealous is promising to systematically undo all of the progress Maryland has made over the past four years by hiking taxes to never-before-seen levels in order to fund his radical pie-in-the-sky spending plans. Voters will reject Jealous’ ill-conceived plans this November and keep Maryland on its current path of more jobs, a stronger economy and better schools.” And in a public relations coup, the Hogan campaign shortly after Jealous was declared the winner released a stinging statement from former Maryland Democratic Chairman Nathan Landow, urging moderate Democrats to support Hogan. “It is imperative that Democratic voters who value moderation, fiscal responsibility and functional government support Governor Larry Hogan in the general election,” said Landow. “His record of sensible, bipartisan reform and his genuine decency is the antidote for what ails our politics today. He stands in stark contrast to the irresponsible and extreme ideas of Ben Jealous.” A June survey by the Washington Post and the University of Maryland showed Hogan prevailing in a hypothetical match-up against Jealous, 51 percent to 39 percent. Hogan enters the general election with more than $9 million in his campaign account, while Jealous, after a drawn-out primary, will have to rebuild his war chest from scratch. But Jealous has shown the ability to raise money and attract potent support. Although Baker had endorsements from numerous Maryland Democratic stalwarts, including Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, former Gov. Martin J. O’Malley and Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, Jealous was able to tap a robust network of supporters to raise more money than Baker.  Unions flocked to his side, drawn to his message of better pay for teachers, Medicare-for-all, an increase in the minimum wage, and other progressive causes. In his concession address to supporters, Baker pledged to help Jealous prevail over Hogan in November.  “The work continues,” he said. “I wanted to do things at the state level, but I’m going to walk out of here very happy with the career I’ve had.” Nine Democrats sought their party’s gubernatorial nomination. One leading contender, Baltimore County executive Kevin B. Kamenetz died on May 10, hours after a candidate forum in Bowie. Kamenetz consistently polled among the top three until his passing, and he was a prolific fundraiser.   In prepared remarks, Jealous paid personal tribute to each of his Democratic primary foes. Of Kamenetz, Jealous said, “We miss his wit and wisdom, and we will never forget him.” Jealous’ supporters gathered at the museum were jubilant Tuesday night, especially after Baker conceded. Susan W. Turnbull, a former state Democratic chairwoman and Jealous’ running mate, lauded the new Democratic nominee. “He has empathy and he has compassion,” she said. “He inspires people by his words and by his actions. Ben’s gonna be a remarkable governor and he’s gonna bring our state together to do big things again.” Rachelle Bland, Jealous’ cousin and owner of the flower shop in West Baltimore, where he kicked off his campaign a year ago, told the crowd, “Under Ben’s leadership, Baltimore will blossom, Maryland will blossom.” Jealous opened on a soft note, paying tribute to his parents, who were on the stage with him. He described how they were a mixed-race couple who were forced to leave Maryland in the 1960’s because interracial marriage was still illegal here. Jealous sought to tie Hogan to President Trump, saying the governor hasn’t sufficiently responded to programs and statements from the Trump administration. “Unlike Larry Hogan, I have the vision, the plans, the experience,” he said. “And unlike him, unlike Hogan, the courage.” “Tolls and puppies? He is a gimmick governor,” Jealous added. “I’ve been tested in my capacity for leadership. I became the youngest president and CEO in the history of the NAACP.” In an interview, Kyle Keragan, Maryland state coordinator for Our Revolution, a progressive group that was an offshoot from Sanders’ 2016 White House campaign, said Jealous “has the aspirational courage of Bernie but also has a plan. He knows how to move us forward.” Keragan acknowledged Hogan’s popularity and said that while Jealous’ proposals will appeal to many voters, he has to pay attention to how he presents his message. “A lot of it is about how you frame the problem,” he said. Cedar Williams, a campaign volunteer, was thrilled by Jealous’ win, even as he also noted how formidable an opponent Hogan will be. “Yeah, Hogan’s scary,” Williams said. But Jealous, he said, had demonstrated an ability to take on establishment politicians and win. “He’s a true progressive, you know…he’s supportive of the voices that get drowned out by the big money.” [email protected] Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.

Bruce DePuyt
Bruce DePuyt spent more than two decades on local television, including 14 years as host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the D.C. metro region. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County, as well as a reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. Bruce also is the host of the weekly The Bruce DePuyt Podcast.
Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.

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