Jon Baron, a nonprofit executive who worked on Capitol Hill for years, officially launched his 2022 gubernatorial campaign Monday.
Baron hasn’t run for office before, but hopes his evidence-based policy approach and lengthy government resume will appeal to voters. He worked for the Defense Department during the Clinton administration, and later served on boards and commissions under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. He founded and ran the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, and also worked as a vice president at the policy-based philanthropy organization Arnold Ventures.
Baron plans to center his campaign around several key policy issues, including:
- Creating a “back to work bonus” to help boost economic growth as Maryland recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic;
- Establishing a statewide tutoring program for struggling elementary school students;
- Incentivizing local job training for young adults;
- Preventing “unnecessary and costly rehospitalization” for older patients; and
- Setting up a program to help people who are long-term unemployed find full-time jobs and providing them with an earnings supplement.
“These are the initial ideas and proposals,” Baron said in an interview ahead of his announcement. “I would work very closely with local officials and community leaders in the design and implementation of these programs to make sure that their input is reflected in all stages of the policy development process.”
Baron has been exploring a gubernatorial bid for months, and said he’s consulted with community leaders from across the state in coming up with his initial policy proposals.
Baron said that he hopes campaigning on concrete policy proposals will boost his credibility with voters — and set him apart from other candidates. He acknowledged that all announced candidates have similar goals, like boosting racial equity, but said he will bill himself as someone who can get the job done.
“It’s the actual ideas and the logic of them as well as the evidence that I emphasize and that I really want them to hear,” he said.
Baron’s bid to set himself apart from other candidates, and Maryland’s political climate as a whole, is clear in his first campaign advertisement. In the three-minute ad entitled “A Very Different Approach,” Baron criticizes Maryland’s status quo.
“More than a quarter of middle school students in our state cannot read at a basic level,” Baron says in the video, “Wages have stagnated as income inequality has grown, healthcare costs keep rising, racial inequities surround us. Clearly, we need a very different approach.”
He pledges to bring the evidence-based approach he has practiced in both the public and private sector into Maryland.
“When I’m governor, we’ll do what’s proven to work,” Baron says in the video.
Baron further pledges to take no corporate or special interest money in his ad. When asked about whether he would participate in Maryland’s recently reformed public campaign financing system, Baron said he’s looking into the program but hasn’t decided whether he’ll participate in it.
“I’m confident that we will have the resources to run a major statewide campaign and be competitive,” he said.
In 2020, Arnold Ventures funded a program, which generated controversy and has since been discontinued, to fly drones over Baltimore City in an effort to fight crime. Baron said he was not involved in the planning and development of that program.
Baron joins an already crowded Democratic field in the 2022 gubernatorial race: Others with announced bids include former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot, former state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, former Obama Administration official Ashwani K. Jain, former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., author and former anti-poverty CEO Wes Moore and Baltimore tech entrepreneur Michael Rosenbaum.
Baron said he hopes the crowded Democratic field, combined with the lack of an incumbent, will create an opportunity for him to stand out in the 2022 primary.