Ben Jealous Shakes Up Maryland Politics

Ben Jealous Shakes Up Maryland Politics

Ben Jealous Shakes Up Maryland Politics

The former head of the NAACP is running for governor on a progressive platform that’s won endorsements from Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and The Baltimore Sun.


Ben Jealous is running an unapologetically progressive campaign for governor of Maryland that outlines a politics of economic and social justice that could change more than one state.

The polls suggest that Jealous is at or near the front of a crowded field going into Tuesday’s Democratic primary. If he is nominated, it will be because the former head of the NAACP has run the sort of serious, issue-focused campaign that invites voters to imagine—and build—a future with Medicare-for-All health care, fully funded schools, and sweeping reform of a broken criminal-justice system.

This vision has secured enthusiastic support from unions representing nurses and teachers, from community activists and civil-rights campaigners, and from national figures who recognize the potential for the politics Jealous proposes. Senator Bernie Sanders, on whose behalf Jealous delivered a stirring 2016 Democratic National Convention address, has endorsed and campaigned for the Maryland contender—as have California Senator Kamala Harris and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker.

Strikingly, Jealous also enjoys the backing of the state’s largest newspaper, The Baltimore Sun, which surprised a lot of Maryland political observers in mid-June when it rolled out an endorsement of Jealous that celebrated his savvy progressivism.

“Maryland voters deserve a real choice in November’s election for governor, and we believe Democrat Ben Jealous provides the clearest alternative to Gov. Larry Hogan,” argued the endorsement. “It’s not just that the former NAACP president and CEO has the stature or political skills to run a competitive campaign against the popular and extremely well funded Republican incumbent (though he does), it’s that he presents the strongest contrast to the governor in his vision for the state.”

The editors explained:

Voters may think of Mr. Jealous as the Bernie Sanders candidate in this race. Mr. Jealous was a prominent supporter of Senator Sanders’ presidential candidacy. He’s brought Bernie into the state… and promises state versions of Senator Sanders’ best known policy proposals: a single-payer, Medicare for all health care system and free college tuition.

But that shorthand version of how he stands out from the broad and deep field of Democrats in this race belies the true nature of his campaign. Mr. Jealous did not grow up in Maryland—his parents had to leave the state because their mixed-race marriage was not legal here at the time—but he has deep roots in Baltimore and a respect for its role in the state, and his policy platform reflects that. We have a lot of questions about how Medicare for all or free tuition would work in Maryland, but on dozens of other issues, from strengthening public education to tackling the opioid crisis to reforming the criminal justice system, his proposals reflect a sophisticated understanding of the problems the state faces and the choices its leaders will have to make in the years ahead.

The Sun noted that, in addition to his strengths as an agenda setter, “Jealous has a proven track record of success in grassroots organizing, whether through get-out-the-vote drives in the deep South or galvanizing Marylanders around issues like the death penalty repeal, the Dream Act and marriage equality. And he has the stature and gravitas to be a leader that Marylanders turn to in difficult times.”

It’s no wonder that the Jealous campaign is featuring the Sun’s endorsement in its “closing-argument” TV ads, as it concludes by portraying him as a progressive who is prepared not just to contend for high office but to govern.

“[We] looked for the candidate who is best able to articulate a cohesive progressive vision to contrast with Mr. Hogan’s center-right policies so that voters can send a clear message in November about the direction they want the state to take, and we looked for the candidate who would best be able to govern if he or she wins,” explained the editors, who concluded that “Mr. Jealous is the best choice on both counts.”

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