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Democracy for America will back Benjamin Jealous for Maryland governor

Former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous is considering a run for Maryland governor. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Democracy for America, a national progressive group, is ready to mobilize its 26,000 Maryland members to help Benjamin Jealous run for Maryland governor in 2018.

“Replacing Maryland’s Republican governor will require a candidate with strong progressive values who can inspire and mobilize voters throughout the state,” Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America, said in a statement. “There is no one better than Ben Jealous for this task.”

Jealous, the former head of the NAACP and a leading voice of progressive Democrats, has never run for political office but is weighing a bid for the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Larry Hogan (R) next year.

He is among seven Democrats who have said they are considering the race. The others include Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, former Maryland attorney general Douglas F. Gansler, Baltimore County Executive Kevin B. Kamenetz, state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (Montgomery), and lawyer James L. Shea.

Alec Ross, a technology entrepreneur, is the only Democrat who has officially entered the race.

Jealous has been traveling across the state trying to make connections with voters. Last week, he finished third behind Rep. John Delaney and Kamenetz in a straw poll held in western Maryland, outperforming Baker, Gansler and Madaleno despite their years in the political arena.

Chamberlain said members of Democracy for America, a group founded by former Vermont governor and Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean, have been “fired up” about a possible Jealous candidacy since February, when word spread that he was seriously considering a run.

The group has 1 million members across the country, Chamberlain said, which could provide a “ready base” of volunteers and grass-roots donors.

“There’s not a moment to lose in organizing to elect a progressive governor of Maryland in 2018,” he said. “That’s why our work starts today.”

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will face a challenge in trying to deny a second term to Hogan, despite the party’s 2-to-1 voter registration advantage in the state. The first-term governor has record-high approval ratings, according to recent polls, and has millions of dollars in his campaign coffers.

At the same time, Democrats in the state have grown somewhat more reluctant to support him for a second term since the election of President Trump, a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found in March.