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Election 2022

Political Notes: Jealous Rips Perez’s Civil Rights Record, Best July 4 Parades for Politics, and Baker Backs Ivey

A statue of Thurgood Marshall stands in front of the Maryland State House. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Ben Jealous, the civil rights leader and 2018 Democratic nominee for governor, posted an unusual eight-minute homemade video to Twitter on Thursday, using it to lambaste the civil rights record of Tom Perez, who is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination this year.

Standing in front of the statue of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall on Lawyers Mall in Annapolis, Jealous, who has endorsed Perez’s opponent Wes Moore for governor in the July 19 Democratic primary, essentially blamed Perez for the fall of Roe v. Wade and accused him of letting Trayvon Martin’s killer go free.

For campaign audacity, the video ranks with the missive that Jill Kamenetz, widow of the late Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz (D), released two weeks ago urging Democratic voters to support anyone but Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) in the primary for governor.

The video opened with Jealous, president of the national progressive group People For the American Way, calling Perez “a colleague in civil rights,” noting that he served as president of the nationally NAACP at the same time Perez was assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights.

But, Jealous said, “I keep losing sleep over two things when it comes to Tom’s candidacy.”

For starters, Jealous criticizes Perez for not bringing civil rights charges against George Zimmerman, the man who killed Martin in Florida in 2012. Jealous compared the situation to a Maryland case that Thurgood Marshall, then a young lawyer, brought to the attention of state officials in the 1930’s after Prince George’s County police killed a Black motorist while he was out for a Sunday drive with his wife.

“When I called on Tom Perez to bring charges against George Zimmerman, he said he ultimately wouldn’t do it because he wouldn’t get a conviction,” Jealous said. “That wasn’t the point. The point was, the precedent needed to be sought if we were ever going to bend the arc of the moral universe of justice when it came to convicting vigilantes.”

While the DOJ did launch an investigation into Zimmerman’s killing of Martin under Perez’s watch at the Civil Rights Division, it wasn’t until 2015, after Perez had moved on to become President Obama’s secretary of Labor, that the Justice Department closed its investigation without pressing federal charges.

Before turning to the next topic, Jealous reiterated that he considered Perez “a colleague and a friend in certain ways and I’ve been silent on his candidacy out of respect.”

But, he said, “with the Roe decision, I just haven’t been able to sleep.”

Jealous then went into a discussion about how the Civil Rights Division under Perez didn’t promote Democratic redistricting plans in southern states a decade ago and cleared some Republican plans that had been submitted to DOJ for pre-clearance. The result, he said, was GOP gerrymandering that decimated Democrats’ political fortunes, and as a result, “in state after state…bad laws have been passed.”

“He gutted Democratic representation throughout the South,” Jealous continued. “He made vulnerable the people of those states to horrible laws on abortion, to horrible laws on the environment, civil rights, a range of issues, by giving the trifecta of power essentially to the GOP.”

“Today,” he added, “our neighbors to the South, state after state, are living in terror.”

Jealous then returned to Marshall, saying that when he was an NAACP lawyer pressing the Supreme Court in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education equal rights case, he started out with only two votes in his pocket and eventually won support from all nine justices.

“What he understood is, you go to court to do the right thing,” Jealous said. “It’s always the right time to do the right thing.”

Jealous ends the video by urging voters to look beyond Perez’s credentials.

“Tom Perez has credentials, but his record is one of having betrayed the civil rights community when it mattered multiple times,” he said. “It’s just a sad fact.”

Jealous does not urge viewers to vote for Moore.

In an interview Thursday afternoon, Moore said he had not seen “the entire video,” and was unaware ahead of time that Jealous would be filming and releasing the message.

“I’m eager to go look at it because I know Ben Jealous’ record as a civil rights leader is unimpeachable,” Moore said. “And as the former Democratic nominee, as a real leader, not just in the state of Maryland, but as a real leader in the party, I’m anxious to hear what he has to say.”

The Perez campaign pushed back strenuously. It released a letter that more than 80 civil rights groups, including Jealous’ NAACP, signed in 2013 supporting Perez’s nomination to be U.S. Labor secretary. A spokesman, Sean Naron, called Jealous’ video a “desperate attempt for attention.”

“His assertion that Barack Obama and Eric Holder’s Justice Department would disenfranchise voters is as ludicrous as this desperate attempt for attention,” he said. “We do agree with Mr. Jealous and the 83 other civil rights organizations who in 2013 highlighted Tom’s record as ‘a tireless champion of voting rights, disability rights, equal education equity and has prosecuted some of the most heinous hate crimes in recent memory.'”

Baker endorses Ivey for Congress

Former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III endorsed Glenn Ivey in the race for the open Fourth District congressional seat on Thursday, calling his longtime friend the candidate best qualified to make an immediate impact. 

Baker, who recently suspended his gubernatorial bid, said that Ivey would help lure the FBI from its downtown Washington headquarters to Prince George’s County, and would help the newly redrawn district improve transportation and fight crime. 

“There’s no one that’s going to fight harder to make sure that we have the jobs that we need in this state and especially in this legislative district,” Baker said. 

Ivey is one of nine Democrats running in the July 19 primary for the seat being vacated by Rep. Anthony Brown (D), who is running for state attorney general. The field includes former congresswoman Donna Edwards and former state delegate Angela Angel. 

Ivey said Baker’s endorsement “would be tremendously helpful to our campaign and a huge boost to our efforts.” 

Ivey served two terms as state’s attorney in Prince George’s County. He has also worked as a congressional staffer and as an attorney in private practice. His wife Jolene serves on the county council and his son Julian is a member of the House of Delegates. 

The Baker and Ivey families have been friends for several decades. 

Where to see your pols this holiday weekend

With the 4th of July coming up, we thought we’d spotlight our favorite parades around the state to catch politicians. Apologies if we’ve left some good ones out:

  • Laurel, July 2, 2 p.m. Starts at the corner of 6th Street and Montgomery Street.
  • Havre de Grace, July 3, 2 p.m. Runs down Union Avenue.
  • Dundalk, July 4, 8:15 a.m. Starts at 2717 Playfield St.
  • Takoma Park, July 4, 10 a.m. Starts at the corner of Carroll Avenue and Ethan Allen Avenue.
  • Towson, July 4, 10:30 a.m. Starts at the Baltimore County Courthouse, 400 Washington Ave.
  • Catonsville, July 4, 3 p.m. Starts at Frederick Road and Montrose Avenue.
  • Annapolis, July 4, 6:30 p.m. Starts at Amos Garrett and West Street.


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Political Notes: Jealous Rips Perez’s Civil Rights Record, Best July 4 Parades for Politics, and Baker Backs Ivey