Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous has chosen Susan W. Turnbull, a Democratic stalwart who has held local, state and national positions in the party, as his running mate in the crowded June 26 primary.
The former NAACP president is the first of the eight Democratic candidates to announce his pick for lieutenant governor. He said he selected Turnbull, a former vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and former chair of the state Democratic Party, because the two share a commitment to bringing people from diverse backgrounds together to address the major problems facing the state, including health care, the opioid crisis and gun violence.
"Susan is a master coalition builder," Jealous said. "Not long ago we were getting big things done in Maryland. And we can get back to doing big things again by building a coalition of Marylanders that goes across the lines of rural versus urban, black versus white and Christian versus Jewish."
Neither Jealous, 44, nor Turnbull, 65, have held elected office. Turnbull, a longtime resident of heavily-Democratic Montgomery County, provides a geographical balance to Jealous, who has lived mostly in the Baltimore region and, as the former president of the NAACP, spent considerable time in Baltimore City.
Turnbull's selection also offers Jealous, who is seen as a party outsider, a tie to the Democratic establishment. Jealous was a strong supporter of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during the 2016 presidential campaign and has been endorsed by Sanders, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Our Revolution, a progressive group Sanders formed after his presidential run.
"While Ben and I come from different places, we wind up at the same place: being the voice for people who haven't had a voice," Turnbull said. "You need to pull together all kinds of groups to solve problems."
Turnbull has strong ties to the Jewish community in Montgomery, a population that Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has heavily courted over the last year.
She has held leadership positions with Jewish Women International and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, advised elected officials from city councils to the White House and co-founded Emerge Maryland, which recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office.
"I've worked in lots of roles," Turnbull said. "I can pick up the phone and call anyone in our state and get a call back."