When much of America was watching Brett M. Kavanaugh’s interview on Fox News on Sept. 24, there was another important broadcast being aired: the Maryland gubernatorial debate, in which Democratic nominee Ben Jealous faced off with incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

Ahead of the debate, polls showed Hogan with 64 percent job approval and a 22-point lead in the race. This debate, the only one scheduled when Jealous had requested as many as five, was an opportunity for him to share his story and vision, tying both to the state’s future. At the same time, he had to try to reveal the sheep’s clothing on the wolf who is Hogan.

Hogan has been defined by the mainstream media as a moderate. The Post, for instance, has claimed that Hogan has “governed as a moderate,” and ran a headline that called him “radically normal.”

It’s true that, in the era of Trumpian bombast, Hogan’s message might seem moderated. And the Democratic supermajority in the Maryland legislature has moderated his actions. Some of the key reforms in Maryland from the past year, including paid sick leave and “banning the box,” which prevents public colleges and universities from forcing applicants to provide information about their criminal histories, were passed over Hogan’s veto.

But Hogan’s actions will be far less moderate if Republican leaders succeed in their “Drive for Five” — their effort to gain five seats in the state Senate during the 2018 elections. The drive, which Hogan has championed and fundraised for, would eliminate the Democratic supermajority and give the GOP more power over judicial appointments and redistricting after the 2020 Census.

Without a veto-proof supermajority, Hogan’s approach to policymaking would undoubtedly change. He is backed by wealthy special interests, accepting thousands of dollars from Koch Industries and tens of thousands from pharmaceutical companies. And he has benefited from a seven-figure attack-ad blitz by the Republican Governors Association.

This glossing-over of Hogan’s conservatism has created a juggernaut against first-time candidate Jealous, who is, more and more, being left off lists of likely Democratic wins. Still, there is hope for Jealous. According to a recent Goucher poll, 26 percent of Marylanders said they could change their mind about who they will vote for.

Jealous has a story to tell that can change hearts and minds. In his opening statement of last week’s debate, Jealous said, “I’m the former national president of the NAACP, and the dad to two Maryland public school kids, and the son of two Maryland public school teachers whose marriage was against the law here 52 years ago because she’s black and he’s white.”

Jealous knows what Maryland’s public schools need because he sends his children there. He knows what small-business owners in Maryland need because he invests in them. He knows that racism persists in Maryland because he has experienced it and fought it.

Jealous can use his personal story to relate to voters and drive home his progressive platform. A large majority of Marylanders support Jealous’s stances on Medicare-for-all, tuition-free college, marijuana legalization and a $15 minimum wage. While Hogan has described himself as a “goalie” who blocks Democratic policies, Jealous can delineate himself as an offensive player who isn’t afraid to take big shots.

Jealous, among many others running in 2018, represents the future of the Democratic Party, and he has garnered the endorsements of many national figures, including the backing of former president Barack Obama on Monday. Potential presidential contenders such as Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) have backed his campaign. Comedian Dave Chappelle, Jealous’s “godbrother,” has stumped for him, as have ice cream mavens Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield.

As with any election, it will all come down to voter turnout. Jealous understands that. (In fact, decades ago, he worked on increasing voter turnout in the South with Stacey Abrams, the current Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia.) Today, Jealous is putting everything into his ground game. His strategy is to bring more than 1 million voters to the polls, which only former governor Martin O’Malley has managed in the state’s history. To accomplish this, his campaign has an army of organizers, and the Maryland Democratic Party plans to quadruple its number of field organizers, compared with its 2014 allocations. That Jealous is building a movement inside a campaign is a measure of his belief in democracy.

In 2014, few predicted Hogan’s victory. Four years ago, an October poll from YouGov, CBS News and the New York Times showed Hogan down by 17 points, yet he came back. This year, few are predicting that Jealous will prevail, because a Mason-Dixon poll conducted on the day of and after the debate gave Hogan a 15-point lead. If Jealous is able to connect his story and vision to the future of Maryland, and turn out enough voters, Maryland could see another upset in 2018. With a massive mobilization of an angry, anti-Trump, heavily female and African American base in a very blue state, Jealous could win. At the end of the debate last week, Jealous said, Maryland “can do much better.” He’s right.

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