Meet the Democrats running for Maryland governor

Here’s what you need to know about the candidates vying for the nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
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Photos by Katherine Frey

Democrats in Maryland and across the country were dumbfounded in 2014 when a little-known Republican named Larry Hogan beat then-Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, their party’s gubernatorial nominee. Four years later, with Hogan’s approval ratings sky-high and Democrats nationwide looking to avenge the election of President Trump, six major candidates are competing for a chance to deny Hogan a second term (a seventh candidate, Kevin Kamenetz, died in May, and his running mate, Valerie Ervin, dropped out of the race on June 13). The Democrats have struggled to differentiate themselves and have focused more on attacking Hogan than one another.

Here’s an introduction to the competitors and a place to find our June poll and much more in-depth coverage of the race.

 

Rushern L. Baker III, 59

Running mate: Elizabeth Embry, a state prosecutor and former Baltimore mayoral candidate.

Résumé: Two-term Prince George’s County executive, state delegate before that. Brought billions in new investment to Prince George’s, the state’s second-most-populous jurisdiction.

Resides in: National Harbor. He and his wife, Christa Beverly, who suffers from early-onset Alzheimer’s, raised three children in Cheverly.

What you need to know: Baker has strong ties to Maryland’s political establishment. His attempt to overhaul the public school system was a signature political risk, alienating him from the powerful teachers union but boosting enrollment and expanding academic offerings. Baker, an occasional long-distance runner, is in a tight race with first-time candidate Ben Jealous, at the top of the crowded Democratic field. He has a tattoo with his wife’s initials and the symbol for the Alzheimer’s Association, which he said he got to boost awareness of the disease.

Read more about Baker here.

 

Ben Jealous, 45

Running mate: Susan Turnbull, longtime Democratic Party official

Résumé: Former president of NAACP, longtime civil rights activist and organizer, tech investor with the Kapor Center for Social Impact. Top lieutenant to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in his 2016 presidential campaign.

Resides in: Pasadena.

What you need to know: Was a Rhodes scholar after college, began organizing as a 14-year-old precinct captain in California during Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign. As NAACP chief, Jealous helped lead advocacy efforts in Annapolis to legalize same-sex marriage, abolish the death penalty and provide in-state tuition to “dreamers.” He is backed by state and national progressive groups and high-profile politicians including Sanders, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

Read more about Jealous here.

Richard S. Madaleno Jr., 52

Running mate: Luwanda Jenkins, business executive, former O’Malley appointee.

Résumé: State senator representing part of Montgomery County, vice chair of budget committee, shepherded same-sex marriage law, Dream Act and other liberal legislation. Outspoken critic of Hogan and Trump.

Resides in: Kensington.

What you need to know: Madaleno went to high school at Georgetown Prep and was the first openly gay person elected to both the House and Senate in Maryland. He’s a rabid Washington Capitals fan, and Annapolis insiders say he knows as much as anyone about the budget and how government works. He released an anti-Trump political ad this month that shows him kissing his husband on the lips. When the legislature is not in session, he has been a stay-at-home dad to the couple’s son and daughter.

Read more about Madaleno here.

Alec Ross, 46

Running mate: Julie Verratti, Silver Spring brewery owner, LGBT activist

Résumé: Author, innovator, tech entrepreneur, former tech guru to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Resides in: Baltimore’s Homeland neighborhood.

What you need to know: Taught in a Baltimore middle school for two years through Teach for America, wants to ensure computer science and coding classes at all Maryland high schools. Wrote a book titled “The Industries of the Future” that was translated into 17 languages and won praise from former Google chief Eric Schmidt.

Read more about Ross here.

James L. Shea, 65

Running mate: Brandon Scott, a member of the Baltimore City Council

Résumé: Longtime managing director of Venable law firm, chaired University System of Maryland Board of Regents, founded Central Maryland Transportation Alliance and chaired Empower Baltimore Management Corp.

Resides in: Owings Mill, Md.

What you need to know: Helped pay his tuition at Princeton and at U.Va. law school by teaching tennis. Has the biggest campaign war chest among Democrats as of May 15. One of two gubernatorial candidates so far to release his tax returns (the first to do so was Madaleno). Positioning himself as centrist in a left-leaning field.

Read more about Shea here.

Krishanti Vignarajah, 38

Running mate: Sharon Blake, former teacher and former president of Baltimore Teachers Union

Résumé: Policy director to first lady Michelle Obama, worked at the U.S. State Department and before that was an attorney in the District with the firm Jenner & Block. Founder and chief operating officer of Generation Impact, a firm that specializes in developing strategies for companies and nonprofits.

Resides in: Gaithersburg

What you need to know: The only immigrant in the race, Vignarajah went to public schools in Baltimore County and attended college and law school at Yale University. She nursed her infant daughter on camera for a political ad and has fended off questions about her residency when she was working for the Obama administration by saying she has always considered Maryland her home.

Read more about Vignarajah here.

Credits: Story by Washington Post Staff. Photos by Katherine Frey. Designed by Madalyne Bird.