The Maryland arm of Our Revolution, a national progressive group led by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), wants to endorse former board member Ben Jealous in the 2018 Maryland governor’s race without interviewing any of the other declared or likely candidates.
Leaders of Our Revolution Maryland say they asked all the candidates to participate in a questionnaire and forum, but were turned down by everyone except Jealous and are moving forward with their endorsement process.
Chairman Bob Muehlenkamp sent an email to Our Revolution supporters Friday that said chapter leaders unanimously want to support Jealous in his quest to defeat several other Democrats and challenge popular incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan (R) — a contest that should be a key test of the strength of the backlash against President Trump in Maryland.
The Maryland group would also work to get Sanders’s national organization to endorse the Baltimore civil rights leader, the email said.
“We will use this gubernatorial election to continue to build the independent grassroots political movement Bernie Sanders is leading so we can elect progressive candidates up and down the ballot,” Muehlenkamp wrote. “This will also be the next step in Our Revolution Maryland nominating Ben for the endorsement of Our Revolution National, which will make available massive organizing power and other resources.”
Aides to some of Jealous’s rivals for the nomination said they were not happy with Our Revolution’s actions, with at least one comparing the endorsement process to the way the Democratic National Committee coalesced around Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid, without regard for Sanders’s surging popularity.
“A lot of Bernie Sanders’ supporters — and I was a Bernie Sanders supporter — were unhappy with the lack of transparency in the DNC process,” said Walter Ludwig, a spokesman for the gubernatorial campaign of state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), who like Jealous is a progressive hoping to draw support from liberal Democrats. “This is no more transparent.”
Aides to several other declared or likely candidates declined to comment on the record, to avoid a potential rift with Jealous’s supporters. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, however, they said they found it strange that Our Revolution wanted to endorse so early in the process, before all the expected candidates had launched their campaigns.
They also questioned why the group sent questionnaires to multiple hopefuls, even though its own former board member was running. Kevin Harris, a spokesman for Jealous, said Jealous resigned from the state and national boards of Our Revolution before starting his gubernatorial campaign.
A senior aide to one rival said Our Revolution did not respond when his team reached out to the group in June to get a better sense of how its forum and endorsement process would work. The campaign ultimately decided that its candidate should not participate in the forum, the aide said.
Andrew Mallinoff, campaign manager for Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, said the campaign requested more time to fill out the lengthy questionnaire and asked for the forum to be held later in the summer. He said he does not recall getting a response from Our Revolution. Baker announced his candidacy June 21, three days before the Our Revolution forum.
Muehlenkamp said his group sent an email to candidates on May 19, and its members followed up with all of those who did not respond.
“The only person who filled out the questionnaire and said he would attend the forum was Ben Jealous,” Muehlenkamp said.
He said that Jealous is “obviously better known by more of our active supporters . . . but many of our people know the other candidates too” and wanted to provide each candidate an opportunity to share his agenda.
Harris said Jealous has not received an official endorsement and “it’s up to [Our Revolution] to run the process how they see fit.”
Josh Hicks contributed to this report.