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Opinion Wes Moore is a compelling choice for governor in Maryland

Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore speaks during a rally for the Democratic National Committee at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Md., on Aug. 25. (Alex Brandon/AP)

In Maryland’s gubernatorial race, Democrat Wes Moore has excited voters with an uplifting life story, soaring rhetoric, impressive credentials from a career spent outside politics and a progressive agenda that relies on an expansive, ambitious government. The Republican, first-term state Del. Dan Cox, has cast himself as Donald Trump’s acolyte, running with the former president’s endorsement and amplifying his lies about election integrity.

The candidates are not merely a study in policy contrasts. They exist in different worlds. Mr. Moore has staked out the aspirational high ground as a liberal intent on tackling high crime, unaffordable housing, child poverty, and the racial wealth and opportunity gaps. Mr. Cox’s political views are rooted in hard-right resentment — at President Biden’s 2020 victory, which he falsely denies; at pandemic mask and vaccine mandates, which saved countless lives; at critical race theory, a chimera wielded to stoke racial anger; at climate change forecasts, which he regards as phony.

The Post endorses Mr. Moore, a charismatic first-time candidate whose grasp of Maryland’s challenges far surpasses that of Mr. Cox.

This is not a close choice.

Mr. Moore, 43, led a major philanthropic outfit, Robin Hood, which dispenses tens of millions of dollars annually to fight poverty in New York City. As an officer and paratrooper in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, Mr. Moore led troops in Afghanistan in his 20s and earned rave reviews from his superiors, one of whom assessed him as a “top 1% officer [and] the best lieutenant I’ve encountered during Operation Enduring Freedom.”

In this race, Mr. Moore offers the best bet for an executive in the mold of the popular term-limited incumbent, Gov. Larry Hogan (R). That might seem paradoxical given that they belong to rival parties and hew to different ideological lines. Yet by instinct and temperament, Mr. Moore, like Mr. Hogan, seems inclined to tamp down the incendiary tribal politics that has polarized the nation.

Mr. Moore sought, and received, the endorsement of the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police, the main police union, despite the unease on his party’s left flank with law enforcement. He has broached the idea of cutting Maryland’s inheritance tax, an idea that, whatever its wisdom on the merits — we have our doubts, given the $50 million annual hit to state coffers — would appeal to lawmakers and voters well beyond Mr. Moore’s core Democratic base.

Undeniably, Mr. Moore is a liberal. But assertions that he is a “socialist,” as Mr. Cox claims, strain credulity, as a glance at his résumé attests. In addition to his work as a nonprofit CEO, Mr. Moore spent more than five years as an investment banker in New York, was a White House fellow during the administration of President George W. Bush, and founded a fee-based enterprise to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds in their transition to college.

Those are as plausibly the credentials of a Republican as a Democrat, and they justifiably raise the expectation among Marylanders that as governor he would aspire to appeal to a broad constituency.

It is impossible to say the same about Mr. Cox, a 48-year-old former high school teacher who practices law in Frederick. He called Vice President Mike Pence a “traitor” for not having impeded the certification of a legitimate election, and Mr. Cox has demonstrated his affinity with QAnon, the crackpot fable that conjures an international cabal led by Democratic pedophiles.

Mr. Moore is easily the more substantive of the two candidates. His website presents detailed analyses and prescriptions for protecting veterans, and elderly and disabled Americans, juicing the economy, improving health care and education, alleviating poverty and the racial wealth gap, and reforming criminal justice. He would fund savings accounts for every baby born to impoverished families and invest heavily to upgrade Morgan State University in Baltimore, the state’s biggest historically Black institution of higher education.

Our endorsement does not come without reservations. We don’t agree with Mr. Moore across the board, and he was not our top pick in the crowded Democratic primary he narrowly won in July. On transportation, a key concern for traffic-weary commuters in the Washington suburbs, he vows to ease congestion but seems determined to satisfy special interests that reliably oppose major highway and transit proposals. He’s had little to say about supporting Metro, on which hundreds of thousands of residents from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties depend, after federal pandemic subsidies run dry next summer.

If he wins, as it is expected he will, Mr. Moore also must be held to account when his campaign promises meet hard fiscal and economic reality. He has laid out an ambitious blueprint for improving public schools and other social challenges, yet it’s unclear how the state would afford it all. Some of his proposals seem pie-in-the-sky, including a plan for clean energy investments that could drive up electric bills by depriving Marylanders of cheap power from neighboring states.

Beyond his stances on issues, Mr. Moore offers a personal history that is compelling and inspirational. A young boy who struggled after his father’s death, he spent a chunk of his childhood amid poverty in the Bronx and won a Rhodes Scholarship after graduating from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. In his late 20s, he wrote “The Other Wes Moore,” a memoir contrasting his own dizzying trajectory with that of another young man of the same name who grew up in Baltimore and was convicted of killing a highly decorated police sergeant.

The book’s opening passages preview a “story of two boys living in Baltimore” and “on the same streets.” Those lines, among others, have been the springboard for controversy — specifically, that Mr. Moore disingenuously cultivated the impression that he was born or grew up in Baltimore. In fact, he did not live in Baltimore until he was 20 years old, as a college student. Still, he spent substantial time there as a teenager during school breaks from a military academy in Pennsylvania. He clearly identifies with the city, where he has lived for a decade.

Mr. Moore has the makings of a fine governor. He is hands-down the better choice in November’s election.

The Post’s View | About the Editorial Board

Editorials represent the views of The Washington Post as an institution, as determined through debate among members of the Editorial Board, based in the Opinions section and separate from the newsroom.

Members of the Editorial Board and areas of focus: Editorial Page Editor David Shipley, Deputy Editorial Page Editor Karen Tumulty; Associate Opinion Editor Stephen Stromberg (elections, the White House, Congress, legal affairs, energy, the environment, health care); Associate Editor Jonathan Capehart (national politics); Lee Hockstader (immigration; issues affecting Virginia and Maryland); David E. Hoffman (global public health); Charles Lane (foreign affairs, national security, international economics); Heather Long (economics); Associate Editor Ruth Marcus; and Molly Roberts (technology and society).