The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The Post endorses Tom Perez in Maryland’s Democratic gubernatorial primary

Tom Perez in D.C. on June 20, 2019. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
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correction

An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly described Wes Moore’s command experience in Afghanistan. He was a captain and paratrooper with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne. This version has been corrected.

Maryland’s Democratic gubernatorial primary is notable for its array of impressively credentialed candidates, including two former U.S. Cabinet secretaries; one who ran a major county; one who has held statewide office for nearly 16 years; and another who led a poverty-fighting philanthropy.

Even in that distinguished field, the choice for us in the July 19 primary is clear: Tom Perez would make an outstanding governor.

It’s easy to be dazzled by Mr. Perez’s résumé while losing sight of his record as a problem solver in key local, state and federal roles. The point is not that Mr. Perez, 60, the son of Dominican immigrants, has held a long list of big jobs; it’s that in all of them he can point to tangible, important achievements. When he says he belongs to the “GSD” — Get Stuff Done — wing of his party, none of his Democratic rivals bother to argue. Even conservatives concede he is highly effective.

That Mr. Perez stands out among his party’s primary crowd of 10 men — yes, unfortunately: all men — is a testament to his substance, not flash. He was a civil rights prosecutor, holding police departments accountable for biased enforcement; won a seat on the Montgomery County Council, playing a key role in attacking predatory lending in a large, diverse locality; served as Maryland’s secretary of labor, licensing and regulation, targeting corporate fraud; ran the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, pushing better protection for immigrants, LGBTQ individuals and those with HIV/AIDS from discrimination and overseeing lawsuits against abusive policing and restrictive state voting laws.

As labor secretary during President Barack Obama’s second term, Mr. Perez intervened, at his own initiative, to help end one of the biggest U.S. strikes in years — about 40,000 Verizon workers who walked off the job in 2016 in a bitter dispute over job security, pensions and health-care benefits. The strike ended after 45 days with a contract, negotiated under his supervision, which Verizon’s management and labor both claimed as a victory.

Mr. Perez’s vision for Maryland is a liberal agenda that would prioritize measures to combat climate change, promote transit, and close the state’s racial, wealth and educational achievement gaps. His platform is more detailed and ambitious than those of his main rivals and differs from them in another major respect: It is mainly free of pie-in-the-sky ideas that pepper other candidates’ websites — such as aiming for energy independence, thereby driving up electric bills by depriving Maryland residents of cheap power from neighboring states.

Among Mr. Perez’s chief primary opponents, two bear mentioning.

Rushern L. Baker III, who as the Prince George’s County executive almost single-handedly resuscitated the locality’s reputation after his predecessor was jailed for corruption, is a public servant of unusual integrity and decency. Wes Moore, who ran an anti-poverty philanthropy, led troops in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan, and wrote a best-selling book about his experience in Baltimore, where he lives, is dynamic and talented. We admire both.

But none of the candidates can match Mr. Perez’s track record or command of governing. Few candidates in Maryland’s history, or the country’s, would enter a governor’s office so well prepared.

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