Jealous, Hogan Ready to Rumble

On the first full day of the fall campaign Wednesday, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) and his newly-minted challenger, Benjamin T. Jealous (D), seemed genuinely eager to get on with it. Hogan, in brief remarks on the second floor of the State House, said he’s happy the Democrats’ primary battle is over. “We’ve had nine people kind of taking partisan shots for over a year, and now we’ve got one,” he said. “We’re anxious to get out there and talk about the issues. I believe we’re going to have a real clear choice for a change.” Jealous, speaking with reporters at the Service Employees International Union office in Baltimore, expressed confidence in his ability to go toe-to-toe with Hogan, despite the incumbent’s strong standing in the polls. Democratic gubernatorial nominee Benjamin T. Jealous, with his running mate, Susan W. Turnbull, at a news conference in Baltimore Wednesday. Photo by Bruce DePuyt  “Bring it on, Larry Hogan. We won last night when nobody thought we would. And we won it overwhelmingly,” Jealous said.  “We look forward to taking on Hogan on any issue he wants to bring.” As if to underscore their eagerness to take one another on, both men made their remarks at high noon. The Hogan camp and the state Republican Party wasted no time going after Jealous’ policy proposals, calling them “extreme.” A video offered clips of Jealous’ primary rivals criticizing his platform. They also highlighted quotes from a handful of Democratic primary voters who told reporters they were likely to vote for the GOP incumbent in the fall because they approve of the job he’s done. But Jealous pounded Hogan on a range of issues, including health care, education, the role of ICE, student debt, the opioid crisis, taxes and the plight of Baltimore City. The Democrat said his large win — his 80,000-vote margin seemed to take even the Jealous team by surprise — was a sign that voters liked what they heard from the former NAACP president on the campaign trail.  “We won this race by running in every corner of the state, criss-crossing this state, listening to people and speaking to their concerns,” he said. Jealous’ win came on the same night that a self-described democratic socialist, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, toppled longtime incumbent New York Rep. Joseph Crowley, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, who was thought to have a shot at becoming speaker if Democrats retake the House in November. Jealous was asked on Wednesday if he’s a socialist.  “Brother, I’m a practicing venture capitalist,” he said. “I’ll be happy to introduce you to the other capitalists across Baltimore and Maryland whose companies I’ve invested in. And they know that Ben Jealous is really good at helping them build strong businesses.” The governor and his campaign team continued to push the themes they hit during his election night celebration, that Jealous’ platform — with his push for free college, Medicare-for-all and a hike in the minimum wage — would hurt the economy. “If you liked Martin O’Malley, you’re gonna love this guy, because he’s talking about tens of billions of dollars in tax increases,” Hogan said. “It would cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs.” Jealous has said he can fund his programs without the need to raise taxes, except on the very wealthy, by reprioritizing state funds, particularly in the criminal justice area, and through smarter governing.  As an example, he faulted Hogan for wanting to repair aging boilers in Baltimore City schools where the heating failed last winter.  “As a businessperson, I can tell you that all you had to do was refinance the replacement of those old expensive boilers with new green heating systems. You pay them off in two years with the savings on the monthly power bill. Larry Hogan is stuck in the 1970s. I’m building the economy of the future every day as a venture capitalist.”  Later in the day, the Hogan campaign released an edited video of an interview Jealous did Wednesday on MSNBC in which the hosts expressed irritation with his response to their questions. They were asking if Democrats will be able to unify the establishment and more progressive factions of the party.  “It’s not surprising Ben doesn’t want to talk about it, but we’re more than happy to,” Hogan campaign spokesman Scott Sloofman said. During his news conference, Jealous seemed eager to engage with the incumbent, frequently addressing him by name.  “Larry Hogan, you have no idea. Your attacks that came out this morning are sad, dude. They’re sad. The people of this state don’t want name-calling. they want us to solve real problems in real time.” Hogan declared himself unimpressed, saying, “This guy hasn’t done much of anything.” In something of a coup, the Hogan camp released an election night statement from Nathan Landow, former chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party, urging “moderates” in the party to back Hogan in the fall. On Wednesday, Jealous draped his arm around the shoulder of his running mate, Susan W. Turnbull, and said, “I’ve got the most important former chairman of the Democratic Party of Maryland right here. She’s the last one who won, and won big.”  While Republicans pressed the notion of “disunity” among Democrats, Jealous said he had received numerous calls of support from his former rivals, including several who offered to work with him in November. In a statement, state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., who finished with in the Democratic primary with 5.7 percent of the vote, accused Republicans of “destroying the very fabric of our values and beliefs. Now is the time to unite, support the Democratic nominee and bring Maryland ideals and values back to our state government.”  In a memo released Wednesday morning, Democratic Governors Association Executive Director Elisabeth Pearson argued that despite sky-high poll numbers, Hogan is vulnerable in November. It also takes issue with Hogan’s narrative that he has governed in a bipartisan fashion, arguing that he has a “career of partisanship.” “Democrats and Independents in Maryland are looking for a leader with the guts to stand up to Donald Trump and fight for progressive values,” Pearson wrote. “And Larry Hogan has failed on those accounts.” [email protected]

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.

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