Former U.S. Education Secretary John King Jr. wants to incorporate equity, leadership and commitment into every policy as he seeks the Democratic nomination for Maryland governor.
King, 46, said in an interview Wednesday those are just three of the attributes of former President Barack Obama he witnessed while serving as the education secretary during Obama’s second term in office.
“A laser-like focus in expanding opportunity that President Obama had and something I would bring [and] try to replicate in the role of governor,” King said. “The commitment to education as a foundation for access not only to economic opportunity, but also participation in our democracy.”
King plans to announce his bid next week during a virtual listening session for residents.
Although King worked as an educator and in the federal government, this will be his first run for public office.
King said the state must improve on climate control, environmental justice and boosting job growth.
One project he would propose to bring back would be the Red Line transit project in Baltimore City. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, whose term expires in January 2023, killed the project and used millions of dollars in state money toward road improvements.
King called that decision by Hogan a “missed opportunity.”
King currently serves as president and CEO of the Education Trust, a nonprofit organization that pushed to close achievement gaps for low-income and minority students. He also founded Strong Future Maryland, a progressive advocacy group that provided testimony to 65 bills during this year’s General Assembly session.
King said faith and hope influence his push to become the state’s first Black governor, especially being that he resides in Silver Spring, about 25 miles away from where his great-grandfather was enslaved in Gaithersburg.
“That’s a reminder to what both is possible in our society, but also of how recent the institution of slavery. It was just three generations ago,” he said.
Education remains a strong focus of King’s, saying it aided him to become a stronger person after the death of his mother when he was 8 years old. At age 12, his father died after suffering from Alzheimer’s. He praised teachers, school counselors and mentors in the public school system in New York City.
King jokingly said, “I’m the first U.S. secretary of education to get kicked out of high school.”
It didn’t stop King from receiving a bachelor’s degree at Harvard University, a law degree from Yale University and a doctorate in education from Teachers College at Columbia University.
King faces a potentially crowded field with state Comptroller Peter Franchot and Ashwani Jain of Montgomery County, another former Obama administration official, already in the running.
Other possible contenders include former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, former state Attorney General Douglas Gansler, Baltimore County Executive John “Johnny O” Olszewski, and former Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez.
Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, who resides in Frederick County, became the first Republican to announce a gubernatorial bid on April 14.