Wes Moore, the Baltimore born and bred author, anti-poverty advocate and social entrepreneur, is actively contemplating seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in 2022.
Moore earlier this month announced his intention to leave his job as CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit with a broad portfolio, sometime this spring ― but did not say what he planned to do next. In a statement provided to Maryland Matters Tuesday evening, Moore said he was “seriously considering” a gubernatorial run.
“I was born and raised here in Maryland,” Moore said in the statement. “I’ve experienced tragedy here, found love here, my wife and I are raising our kids here. This is a moment where we are facing unprecedented challenges that we must come together to solve. As I prepare to step down as CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation in the next couple months, I’m reflecting on my experiences and the path forward. I’m having great conversations with family, friends, and community leaders, and seriously considering serving the great people of this state by seeking to become their governor.”
Moore has also, according to multiple sources, consulted with political professionals in Maryland and at the national level to assess his viability as a candidate and explore the mechanics of putting together a statewide campaign.
Moore’s entry would instantly transform the 2022 gubernatorial election, which has been slow to develop, adding an air of celebrity and excitement.
“This is someone to be very excited about,” said state Del. Stephanie M. Smith (D-Baltimore City), who has been friendly with Moore for a decade. “What Wes represents is someone who not only the Maryland Democratic stalwarts could be excited about, but also independents, younger voters, voters of color. He could appeal to lifelong Marylanders, urban voters, suburban voters.”
But Moore would also look to add substance ― and his inspiring life story ― to any campaign he wages.
Moore, 43, was born to a single mother in Baltimore and grew up in the city and in New York. He received degrees from Valley Forge Military College and Johns Hopkins University before becoming a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England.
Moore next joined the military, serving as a captain and paratrooper with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne, including a combat deployment to Afghanistan.
Moore later returned to Baltimore, where he started BridgeEdU, an education tech platform focused on college completion and job placement for poor and underserved students. Since 2017, he’s been CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, which runs multiple programs designed to lift families out of poverty. While the nonprofit is in New York, Moore has continued to live with his wife, Dawn Flythe Moore, and their two children in Baltimore’s Guilford neighborhood.
Moore is also an author. One book, “The Other Wes Moore,” a story that compared his life to that of another man named Wes Moore, who fell into the criminal justice system and hard times, became a national bestseller. His latest book, “Five Days,” looks at the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore police custody and the explosive aftermath.
In recent months, as the COVID-19 pandemic created public health and economic crises and the nation faced a reckoning over systemic racial discrimination, Moore made numerous virtual appearances, speaking to groups across the country and in Maryland.
In an informal conversation with Maryland Matters last fall, Moore expressed a desire to travel more widely around the state to listen to Marylanders describe their struggles. He did not specifically mention an interest in a political campaign.
But Moore has been mentioned as a possible candidate whenever there was a high-profile political vacancy in recent years. He has been urged to run for mayor of Baltimore and for the congressional vacancy left by the death of former Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D) in 2019.
“He has been around politics and politicians but never run for office. But he has a long track record of using his passion for creating change,” said state Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery).
Although Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) is term limited, and Democrats have high hopes of retaking Government House, the 2022 Democratic race for governor is only beginning to take shape.
Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) has been a declared candidate for over a year — and on Tuesday he was endorsed by the Labors International Union of North America. Ashwani Jain, a 31-year-old former Obama administration official who ran unsuccessfully for the Montgomery County Council in 2018, has also declared his candidacy.
Former Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2014, began raising money late last year and seems increasingly likely to make a second bid. Other potential Democratic candidates include Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks, U.S. Rep. Anthony G. Brown, former U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr., Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr., former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, and U.S. Rep. David J. Trone.
“I feel like [Moore] represents a lot of possibilities to expand who is interested in this race and infuse excitement that right now isn’t there,” Smith said. “This is a brilliant person. He could be doing a lot of different things with his pedigree.”
Franchot reported $2.2 million in his campaign account as of mid-January, but Moore’s admirers believe he can catch up quickly if he decides to run. During the pandemic, the Robin Hood Foundation raised over $230 million — the second-highest fundraising total in the history of the organization — from roughly 100,000 donors.
“Thanks to Wes Moore’s transformational leadership, Robin Hood is at the strongest point in our 33-year history,” said Paul Tudor Jones, a co-founder and board member of the foundation.
Even though Moore would be a first-time candidate, supporters think he knows plenty about politics — and what’s more, his wife was a top aide to two former Maryland lieutenant governors, Brown and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
“I think his life has prepared him for a lot of rough and tumble,” Kagan said.
Moore is expected to remain at the Robin Hood Foundation until his successor is chosen. A Democratic strategist who has been conferring with Moore said he is likely to make his decision about a gubernatorial run sometime in the mid- to late spring — though the timing of a formal announcement isn’t entirely clear.
“He’s giving this very serious consideration,” Smith said, “because these are very serious times.”