Ben Jealous, the former president of the NAACP, officially launched his campaign for the Democratic nomination for Maryland governor on Wednesday, promising if elected to protect President Barack Obama’s legacy and to turn Sen. Bernie Sanders’s dreams of fixing economic inequality into reality for Maryland families.
Jealous, an outspoken progressive and an early supporter of Sanders’s presidential bid last year, is making his first run for political office and joins what is likely to be a crowded field of Democrats vying to unseat Gov. Larry Hogan, a widely popular Republican in a blue state.
He is the second Democrat to formally declare and one of the more progressive candidates eyeing the governor’s seat.
Jealous, 44, described his campaign as a movement of working families coming together to “find the answers to the issues that we face” and “move our state faster than most think is possible. . . .
“We can grow our state, create opportunity, and leave a better future for our children,” Jealous told about 75 supporters outside Baltimore Blossoms, a Baltimore City flower shop in the Northwest neighborhood where his grandparents live. “It will not be easy, but no great undertaking ever is. But we don’t fear the challenge, rather we are up to it, we are inspired by it. . . . It is time for us to dream again and to make big dreams real again.”
Jealous told the crowd of his family’s history, including his black mother and white father, two Baltimore teachers who fell in love and moved to California because interracial marriage in Maryland was illegal at the time.
If elected, he said that he would push to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour; place a highly qualified teacher in each classroom; do away with “massive” student debt; and end mass incarceration. He promised to lure tech companies to the state, invest in infrastructure, revive the Red Line and save the Purple Line. He said he would pay for the programs by “closing the corporate loophole, ending mass incarceration, fighting big pharma and ending waste and fraud” in state government.
Jealous took aim at Hogan, comparing him to the cowardly lion in “The Wizard Oz.”
“Since President Trump has come into office he has repeatedly bowed and submitted to the will of the most extreme members of the President Trump administration,” Jealous said. “He has aligned himself with the Trump administration by his misguided action and his so cowardly silence.”
A spokeswoman for Hogan did not immediately respond to a call for comment.
A former community organizer and journalist, Jealous is a partner at Kapor Capital, a California-based venture capital investment firm that focuses on socially conscious businesses.
Jealous, who lives in Anne Arundel County, gained national prominence in 2008 when at age 35 he took the helm of the country’s oldest civil rights organization, becoming the youngest person to lead the NAACP.
During his four years at the NAACP, Jealous helped lead the fight in Maryland to abolish the death penalty, legalize same-sex marriage and allow undocumented college students to receive in-state tuition.
“We have fought and won against the odds before,” Jealous said. “We have the opportunity to move forward on the economy and on education as quickly as we moved forward on civil rights a few years ago.”
Mileah Kromer, a political-science professor at Goucher College, said unlike the other Democratic challengers, Jealous has name recognition across the state.
Alec Ross, a technology entrepreneur, announced his candidacy in April. State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (Montgomery) said last month that he plans to seek the Democratic nomination, but he has not officially declared.
Other Democrats considering a bid include Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, former Maryland attorney general Douglas F. Gansler, Baltimore County Executive Kevin B. Kamenetz and lawyer James L. Shea.
“[Jealous is] known among the core progressives across the state, and equally as important he’s known in the black community in Baltimore City,” she said.