Benjamin Jealous, the former president of the NAACP, said Tuesday that he is “seriously” considering a bid for the Democratic nomination to challenge popular Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in 2018.
Jealous, a big supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and a leading voice among progressive Democrats, said several people began asking him about running shortly after Sanders’s presidential campaign. The calls, he said, became more frequent after his speech last summer at the Democratic National Convention.
“I’ve begun to weigh it seriously,” said Jealous, who also considered, but opted against, a run for U.S. Senate in 2015 after former senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D) announced her retirement.
Jealous said he is contemplating a gubernatorial run “in large part because of the times we’re living in.”
President Trump’s victory, he said, “calls on all of us to dig down deep and figure out how we can be of service.”
Jealous joins a growing list of elected officials — current and former — who are considering a run against Hogan and his well-heeled reelection campaign.
Potential Democratic challengers include Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, who has said he will decide after Maryland’s General Assembly session ends in mid-April; Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who is raising campaign cash even though term limits prevent him from seeking another four years in his current job; U.S. Rep. John Delaney; Del. Maggie L. McIntosh (Baltimore); and former state attorney general Douglas F. Gansler.
“In the wake of Donald Trump becoming president, there has been a renewed urgency by the Democratic Party to find the right person” to challenge Hogan, said Gansler, who was recently in Annapolis gauging support for his potential candidacy. He said party leaders “and the regular Democrat on the street all share the same interest of taking Maryland back for the Democratic Party.”
Former U.S. secretary of labor Thomas Perez, whose name circulated as a potential gubernatorial candidate late last year, ruled out a run during his successful bid to lead the Democratic National Committee.
Despite efforts by Democrats to tie Hogan to Trump, who is deeply unpopular in the state, the governor continues to enjoy strong support in Maryland. In a Goucher College poll released Monday, Hogan had a 63 percent approval rating among Maryland adults, a slight drop from the 70 percent approval rating he held in September but the same as his rating a year ago.
The governor has more than $5 million available for his reelection bid, according to 2016 campaign finance disclosures filed in January.
Jealous, 44, served as the president and chief executive of the NAACP, the country’s oldest civil rights organization, from 2008 to 2013. From its national headquarters in Baltimore, he campaigned to end the death penalty, mobilized younger voters and took on the tea party movement.
He left to spend more time with family and to raise money for African Americans running for political office. A former journalist and community organizer, Jealous is a partner at Kapor Capital, an Oakland, Calif.-based venture capital investment firm.
On Tuesday, Jealous attended a news conference held by the state teachers union urging the legislature to reject Hogan’s request to add more spending to the school voucher program.
Instead, the union wants the state to do away with the program.
Kamenetz and Baker were also at the news conference.
Jealous said that he is in the early stages of exploring a gubernatorial run. “We’re looking very seriously,” he said. “And if I announce, it is because we believe there is a real path to win.”
Fenit Nirappil contributed to this report.