Democratic Candidates for Governor Roll Out Endorsements

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Wes Moore (left) and John B. King Jr. (right). Photos by Danielle E. Gaines.

Two Democratic candidates for governor rolled out endorsements Monday — in one case, a roster of elected officials from Baltimore City, and in the other, a U.S. senator from out of state.

Wes Moore, the author and former nonprofit CEO, is picking up endorsements from seven West Baltimore political leaders, including the entire delegation from the 40th legislative district. The list features state Sen. Antonio L. Hayes, Dels. Marlon D. Amprey, Frank M. Conaway Jr. and Melissa R. Wells, and City Councilmembers John T. Bullock, Phylicia Porter and James Torrence.

For Moore, who lives in the city and is one of the few Baltimore-based candidates in the nine-way primary, it’s a further sign that the Baltimore region could yield a solid base of support, especially if voters follow the lead of their elected officials. Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman (D) endorsed his bid earlier this month, and four other city councilmembers — Odette Ramos, Mark Conway, Eric Costello and Zeke Cohen — are also on board. Del. Stephanie M. Smith, the head of the Baltimore City House delegation, was an early supporter.

In an interview, Hayes said Moore’s familiarity with Baltimore and the challenges facing the city was part of the reason why he and his colleagues opted to back him.

“We’ve been contacted by just about every candidate,” Hayes said. “I think at the end of the day we believe Wes Moore represents the best chance of taking back the State House, because of his lived experience, because of his intelligence, and because of his proven record of bringing people together.”

Wells said that while many candidates discuss the city on the campaign trail, “I feel like a lot of leaders really don’t know Baltimore intimately.”

But the lawmakers said it isn’t purely geography that drew them in: Both said Moore has already been involved in the community, often without seeking the limelight, working to lift residents out of poverty. Hayes said one of his cousins, a single mom trying to make ends meet, had benefited from a $25 million anti-poverty program that Moore had launched in Baltimore during his time as CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation called Mobility LABs.

Hayes said he was surprised to learn this and thought, “Oh. Maybe this guy is the real deal.”

Despite the distinct possibility that Moore could emerge as “the Baltimore candidate,” Wells and Hayes argued that he has widespread appeal to the entire state, and Wells said she would work on her colleagues in the legislature to support him.

Notably, all the Baltimore-area elected officials who have endorsed Moore, with the exception of Conaway, who was elected in 2006 and comes from a prominent political family, are relatively new to politics, in their first or second terms, and generally in the progressive camp politically. Many of them replaced politicians who had been in office for decades and were considerably less liberal.

Moore said these are the kind of political leaders he’s looking forward to being allied with if he’s elected.

“At a time when we’re facing generational challenges, it’s time we started focusing on generational change,” he said.

Moore added that endorsements from elected leaders are especially validating for a first-time candidate because they show “I’ve been working with members of the legislature on these issues for my entire life, just not as a politician.”

Wells said interacting with the Hogan administration has been frustrating at times and she believes the failures of the Maryland Department of Labor to quickly get unemployment benefits to needy residents during the height of the pandemic would never have happened if Moore had been governor. She said those considerations weighed on her as she formulated her priorities for her next term.

“Having an executive, having an administration, the leaders that are ideal, that are really in charge of making these policies come to life, is really so important,” Wells said.

A Nutmeg State nod

Meanwhile, one of Moore’s Democratic primary opponents, former U.S. Education secretary John B. King Jr., announced Monday that he has been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

In a statement, Murphy recalled working with King during the Obama administration and coming away impressed with “his passion for creating accountable, effective public institutions that make people’s lives better,” particularly his “deep commitment to ending the school-to-prison pipeline and ensuring everyone has a second chance.”

Murphy’s endorsement of King does not have the same practical, on-the-ground impact that the Baltimore lawmakers’ backing of Moore does, but he is a rising star in national Democratic politics with a robust following and could be a draw if he stumps with King or helps him raise money.

“John’s unique life story, as well as his career as an educator, policymaker, and Secretary of Education, give him the experience to boldly tackle the issues Marylanders face: from inequality in education and wealth, to the threat posed by climate change and beyond,” Murphy said. “I look forward to seeing him elected as the next governor of Maryland.”

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Josh Kurtz
Founding Editor Josh Kurtz is a veteran chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He was an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, for eight years, and for eight years was the editor of E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill. For 6 1/2 years Kurtz wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz regularly gives speeches and appears on TV and radio shows to discuss Maryland politics.