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Government & Politics

John King, Former U.S. Secretary of Education, Announces Gubernatorial Bid

Former U.S. Education secretary John B. King Jr. is seeking the democratic nomination for governor in 2022. Official Obama administration photo.

John B. King Jr. (D), the former U.S. secretary of Education under President Obama, announced his 2022 gubernatorial bid Tuesday.

Education will be one of King’s foremost talking points on the campaign trail, and he touted his lengthy resume as an educator in his announcement.

King started his career as a teacher and school administrator, and later became New York State’s commissioner of education before joining the Obama administration.

His 2 1/2-minute announcement video features audio of President Obama introducing him at a previous event – though not for his campaign for governor. The video also features a still photograph of King with the former president.

“My life is proof of the positive difference that public institutions can make in people’s lives,” King said in the announcement. “I lost both my parents as a child, my mom when I was 8 and my dad when I was 12. Public schools and inspiring public school teachers saved my life. Even when I struggled as a teenager and got kicked out of high school, it was teachers and a school counselor that gave me a second chance. I am running for governor of Maryland because we can’t afford to rely on chance for more Marylanders to have the opportunity to succeed.”

King, 46, has headed The Education Trust – a Washington D.C.-based organization focuses on closing the achievement gap for students of color – since his tenure as secretary of Education ended in 2017.

He’s more recently weighed in on a slew of state-level policy issues by forming the progressive advocacy group Strong Future Maryland last year. That group pushed for a variety of reforms during the Maryland General Assembly’s 2021 legislative session, including criminal justice reform and environmental justice efforts.

King’s Tuesday release noted Strong Future Maryland’s broad activism, but repeatedly underscored his work in education. He previously told a gathering of the Women’s Democratic Club of Montgomery County that building up early childhood education, ramping up health and mental health services in public schools and partnering with Maryland’s Historically Black colleges and universities should be the state’s top priorities going forward.

King’s announcement video features testimonials from a handful of his former students.

“Maybe it’s time for a teacher as governor,” one of them says.

“We need a teacher as governor,” says another.

“The great thing about a teacher as governor is that teachers know we have to start by listening to our students, by seeing our students as whole people,” King says in the video. “That’s how a governor should think.”

For King, the sweeping Blueprint for Maryland’s Future education reforms are just the first of many steps needed to improve education in the state.

“I would argue that we have to see the Blueprint as the floor, not the ceiling,” King told the women’s Democratic club in March. “We’ve got to continually be asking what we can be doing to build on the Blueprint.”

The timing of King’s announcement – April 20, the same day Harriet Tubman is believed to have begun her work with the Underground Railroad in Maryland – was deliberate. King’s Silver Spring residence is roughly 25 miles from where his own great-grandfather and his family were enslaved in Gaithersburg.

“My ancestors could not have imagined that I would be where I am today,” King said. “I am living because they survived. I am running for them and to make good on the promise of a better future for Marylanders for generations to come.”

In announcing his candidacy, King joins a growing Democratic field of 2022 gubernatorial candidates: Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot, former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and Ashwani Jain, another former Obama administration official, have also announced bids. Several other Democrats have begun to mobilize for potential runs.

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John King, Former U.S. Secretary of Education, Announces Gubernatorial Bid