Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore walked away from the Maryland State Education Association spring assembly with one of the most coveted endorsements in state politics on Saturday.
The teachers’ union represents about 76,000 educators and school employees in Maryland and is known for its ubiquitous Apple Ballot handouts at polling places.
In the 2018 election cycle, 81% of MSEA-endorsed candidates won their races in the primary and 71% won in the general election, the organization said.
The union also endorsed state Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D-Baltimore City) for comptroller and U.S. Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D) for attorney general on Saturday.
By evening, the MSEA website was already featuring a large pop-up add with news of the endorsement and a link to support the teachers’ get-out-the-vote effort.
Nine candidates for governor were vying for the endorsement, and several addressed the assembly of about 400 union delegates at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in College Park.
Candidates from all parties were invited to compete for the union’s endorsement by completing a candidate questionnaire and a one-on-one interview with MSEA President Cheryl Bost. Republican candidates were invited, but none participated in the endorsement process.
The union’s Endorsement Council, a panel of about 100 educators from every county in the state, make recommendations to the full union assembly for a final endorsement, which required a 58% majority.
The MSEA Endorsement Council nominated Moore “based on his personal history as a Marylander with a commitment to service and leadership that aligns with MSEA’s goals for a world-class education for every student,” the union said in a news release.
In a crowded gubernatorial primary with nine candidates qualified to receive the endorsement, there was a good chance that no candidate would have passed the threshold, but Moore received support from 85% of the delegates assembled on Saturday. The result was a blow to former U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez (D), who has racked up support from several unions and was hoping to snag the teachers’ blessing.
Lierman received 98% of delegates’ votes in the comptroller’s primary, and Brown received 96% for attorney general.
“Our students and communities need leadership committed to the promise that no matter their neighborhood they will have the same opportunity to reach their potential,” Bost said in a statement. “Wes Moore has demonstrated a commitment to unite people whom he leads in the fight for racial, social justice, and to give an educators a voice in the decisions and policies that affect education.”
After the vote, Moore called the endorsement an “incredible milestone” in his campaign and promised that educators would have a voice in his administration if elected.
“Nothing about you without you,” he said in a statement. “You are going to have a true partner in Annapolis.”
But the endorsement process was not without controversies. Former Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman said last month that she was not able to complete the MSEA’s lengthy endorsement questionnaire on time after a late launch for her gubernatorial campaign. (Union leaders said they’d extended extra time to Neuman, who still failed to respond.)
And on Saturday, former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor a second time, said his campaign was denied the opportunity to address the educators’ assembly.
Baker was in Massachusetts for the funeral of his brother-in-law and wrote on Facebook that he’d been given assurances his running mate, Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro (D), would be allowed to speak instead.
Only after Navarro was ushered on to the stage Saturday was she told that she would not be speaking, Baker said.
“Nancy Navarro deserved better than this. To be honest, the rank and file educators who work so hard, for not enough pay, on behalf of our kids deserved better than this,” Baker wrote.
“They deserved to hear from the campaign that currently poses the strongest challenge to a frontrunner who opposed the landmark Blueprint for Maryland’s Future,” Baker wrote, in reference to Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D), who said during education reform debates that the state’s plan was too costly, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic set in.
In a statement Saturday evening, MSEA said a video from Baker was shown in his absence and Navarro was recognized on stage, as planned and communicated to the campaign. The union said it was unfortunate that the plan was misunderstood by Baker’s campaign.
Former U.S. Education Secretary John King tweeted after the vote, without making reference to the MSEA process: “As a teacher, public school parent, and former US Secretary of Education under President Obama, I know that TEACHERS build a brighter future for all our kids. I know that it’s time for Maryland to have a teacher as governor.”
During the MSEA endorsement process, Moore, Lierman, and Brown each reiterated their support for funding the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future education reform effort, which is expected to raise Maryland’s annual investment in public education by billions of dollars a year within the next decade.
“The Blueprint: I will fund it, but we will implement it together,” Moore said in a statement.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include an additional statement from MSEA after Saturday’s vote.