Opinion: Ben Jealous Will Be the Governor Marylanders Deserve
I’ve been in Maryland politics a long time, and I’ve seen many candidates come and go. Winning candidates inspire. They share a vision, and they show voters how our tomorrows can be better than our todays. I know a winner when I see one, and Ben Jealous is a winner.
In Ben Jealous—the youngest person to ever lead the NAACP and a small business investor—voters in my home state of Maryland have a historic opportunity to elect our first African American governor.
As the head of the DNC, I have to make strategic decisions about where to invest our resources, and investing in the Maryland Democratic Party’s all-Maryland field strategy, which will activate voters in every ZIP code in Maryland, was a no-brainer.
Like voters across the country, Marylanders are ready for bold, courageous leadership. They’re ready to send a message to Donald Trump and the Republican lawmakers who support his corrupt agenda.
We saw this enthusiasm in the primary, where Ben won by more than 10 points, including 22 out of 24 jurisdictions statewide. He did it by inspiring Democrats to go to the polls, increasing turnout by 20 percent over 2014.
No Republican candidate for governor has ever won more than a million votes in a Maryland election. In 2014, Hogan secured a mere 884,400 votes, just a few thousand more than one-term Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich received in 2002. The simple fact is that Larry Hogan’s support in Maryland has a ceiling, and there are simply not enough registered Republicans to match Democrats’ enthusiasm in 2018.
But more importantly, Hogan has no vision and no plans, which explains why he’s recycling his ads from 2014. Observers are beginning to notice. The Washington Post editorial board wrote that with Hogan’s record of “incrementalism and lack of any signature marquee initiative, his challenge is to convince Marylanders that he has a vision for the state.”
There’s another phrase for Hogan’s incrementalism: the status quo. And voters are tired of it. They want bold action. They want a government for the people, not special interests.
When Maryland Democrats were fighting to give every worker in our state earned sick leave so they don’t have to choose between taking care of a loved one or keeping their job, Hogan worked with the Koch Brothers to “kill the bill.” And while Hogan has been working with his wealthy corporate allies to maintain the status quo, Marylanders are being squeezed by stagnant wages and skyrocketing healthcare costs. The average benchmark Affordable Care Act premium has more than doubled from $220 per month to $486.
Hogan has also failed our students. Back when I was Maryland Labor Secretary, our schools were first in the nation. Under Governor Hogan, we’ve dropped to sixth place. And he’s offered no plan to expand the school year or to fill the $2.9 billion funding gap that has grown during his time in office.
When he isn’t lifting up wealthy corporations or leaving our students behind, Hogan is hurting working people – especially in communities of color – by defunding critical transit and infrastructure investments.
Ben Jealous has a bold agenda to get Maryland back on track. He has a plan to lower prescription drug prices and stop skyrocketing insurance premiums. He will finally guarantee higher wages for all workers by passing a $15 an hour minimum wage. He will use his experience as a small business investor to empower Maryland’s entrepreneurs and bring in innovation to kick-start Maryland’s stagnant economy. And he will fully fund our public schools and raise teacher pay.
Unlike Hogan, who has spent four years maintaining the status quo to please the Koch Brothers and his other wealthy donors, Ben Jealous has spent his career fighting for the rights and opportunities of everyday Americans. As the youngest-ever president and CEO of the NAACP, Ben turned around the civil rights institution’s finances and grassroots infrastructure. And as an investor at Kapor Capital, Ben has advised innovative, socially-responsible startups to help create progressive change.
What voters are looking for in 2018 in vision, not the status quo. That’s why I’m betting big on Ben Jealous this year, and in November, Maryland voters will too.
This is my home state. I know what it means to be a Marylander, and the people of Maryland deserve a governor like Ben Jealous who has the courage and experience to fully fund education, end our current health care crisis, and create an economy that works for everyone.
When it comes down to it, public service is not a popularity contest. It’s about who has the courage to make the right decisions and move our state forward. Ben Jealous has the courage to stand up for the people of Maryland. Larry Hogan does not.
The writer is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.