The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Tech entrepreneur is first Democrat to enter Maryland governor’s race

Tech entrepreneur and Democrat Alec Ross, 45, is running to become governor of Maryland. (Courtesy of Alec Ross gubernatorial campaign)

Baltimore nonprofit founder, author and former Obama administration technology adviser Alec Ross on Wednesday became the first in what is expected to be a crowded field of Democrats to enter Maryland’s 2018 gubernatorial race.

The 45-year-old political newcomer declared his candidacy through social media and his campaign website, saying he will "use what I know about entrepreneurship and innovation to open up high-paying jobs to Marylanders with and without a college degree."

At least eight other Democrats have said they are considering a 2018 run for governor, including Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III, U.S. Rep. John Delaney, former Maryland attorney general Douglas F. Gansler, former NAACP executive director Benjamin Jealous, Baltimore County Executive Kevin B. Kamenetz, state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (Montgomery), state Del. Maggie McIntosh (Baltimore) and lawyer James L. Shea.

The winner of the Democratic primary is expected to face Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who has said he will seek a second term.

Hogan's approval rating soared to 71 percent in September, then dipped to 65 percent in March, with a growing number of voters saying they would prefer to see a Democrat in the governor's mansion. Still, Hogan is well-known and well-liked around the state, and has raised millions of dollars more than any of his potential opponents.

Ross, who is married to a teacher and taught middle school for two years, criticized Hogan for supporting charter schools and voucher programs.

He said that if elected he would “make bold, unprecedented investments in our kids, including computer-science and coding classes for all public-school children by the time they’re 10 years old.”

Ross served as a technology policy adviser to Obama’s first presidential campaign and then as tech czar for the U.S. State Department, and wrote “The Industries of the Future,” which spent time on the New York Times’ list of business bestsellers.

He graduated from Northwestern University in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in history, then joined Teach for America, which assigned him to a tough middle school in Baltimore. His work there was detailed in a three-part series in the Baltimore Sun.

In 2002, Ross founded a nonprofit group that focused on providing low-income and underserved communities with access to high-speed Internet service. The organization has since become a multimillion-dollar corporation.

In his book, Ross predicted that five industries would dominate the global economy of the next several decades: robotics, cybersecurity, genomics, data analysis and digital currency.