BALTIMORE — Less than 24 hours after he won the Democratic nomination for Maryland governor, Ben Jealous held an emotional press conference Wednesday afternoon to lay out his plan for defeating Republican incumbent Larry Hogan in the November general election.
Speaking at the 1199 SEIU headquarters, Jealous thanked voters and volunteers before touting his business acumen as a venture capitalist and unity among Democrats throughout the state.
Jealous also took Hogan to task for the city having exorbitant property taxes compared to other locales in the state.
“Brother, you can keep your promise,” the former NAACP president said. “You told the people of this state you would cut taxes, but you didn’t do it. They remain deeply unfair.”
Hogan’s campaign also wasted little time in attacking the other side, releasing a short video Wednesday titled “Introducing Ben Jealous,” which casts his opponent’s proposed policies as “too extreme” and “too risky” for Marylanders.
The video even used a sound bite from another Democratic also-ran, Baltimore lawyer Jim Shea, who told Jealous during a candidates’ forum that Hogan would portray him as a “tax-and-spend Democrat.”
Jealous said Wednesday investments in priorities such as small businesses not only produce future entrepreneurs, but also boosts the economy and local communities.
“We spend more and more on incarceration and less and less on public higher education and that’s made tuition go up,” Jealous said. “Larry Hogan’s stuck in the 1970s. He thinks like a land developer and doesn’t think like a governor.”
Doug Mayer, Hogan’s deputy campaign manager, issued a statement after Jealous’ press conference, blasting the Democratic nominee as untrustworthy.
“Ben Jealous must want to be governor in the worst way, and he’s going about it in the worst way in a series of embarrassing, fact-free and incoherent statements,” Mayer said. “Here’s to hoping he finds his footing or the truth, either one would be an improvement.”
Todd Eberly, political science professor at St. Mary’s College in St. Mary’s, Maryland, said the race between Hogan and Jealous could be one of the most memorable in recent state history.
Hogan seeks to become the first Republican governor re-elected in Maryland since Theodore McKeldin in the 1950s, while Jealous touts his background as a community organizer with support from union leaders, state teacher’s organization and high-profile, out-of-state politicians.
If elected, Jealous would be the first Black governor in state history.
“You’ve got an incumbent Republican with a ridiculous high-approval rating who’s running against [President Donald] Trump as a moderate, and he’s running against a Democrat who’s also against Trump and running as a progressive,” Eberly said. “It’s just a dynamic that you haven’t seen in Maryland before.”
The historical magnitude of possibly being the first Black to lead Maryland wasn’t lost on Jealous, who cried when he recalled his Black mother couldn’t marry his White father because interracial marriage remained illegal in the state in 1960s.
“I can’t tell you when your family has survived segregation in this state that your about to become the governor of, it just shows much hope it gives you,” he said as a tear streamed down his left cheek. “If we do anything in this campaign, we will make sure that Maryland moves forward because we are a state that yearns to be a place where no one is pushed down because of who they look like, or who they love, or what God they pray to.”
Eberly said the June 26 primary election results show a change in the Democratic philosophy.
In the gubernatorial race, Jealous received nearly 40 percent of the votes among nine candidates on the ballot, winning 22 of 24 counties.
State Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton of Charles County, who’s been in Annapolis since 1995 and chairs the Finance Committee, lost by 651 votes to Arthur Ellis, while another longtime state lawmaker, Sen. President Pro Tempore Nathaniel J. McFadden of Baltimore City, lost to Delegate Cory McCray by slightly more than 2,000 votes.
Progressive and labor groups supported Delegate Mary Washington of Baltimore City, who currently leads state Sen. Joan Carter Conway by 469 votes, though provisional and absentee ballots must still be counted.
Conway, who’s been in the Senate for 20 years, chairs the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.
In the House of Delegates, Joseph Vallario Jr., 81, came in third among seven candidates in District 23B that represents portions of Prince George’s and Calvert counties. Only the top two vote-getters advanced.
“Primaries attract the committed, base voter,” Eberly said. “In this primary, the passion was on the left and conveyed a message to the establishment that, ‘You’re not doing what we want you to be doing.’”
The SEIU said it supports Jealous and his platform of marriage equality, a $15 hourly minimum wage and criminal justice reform.
“He’s not right, he’s not left, he is for the people,” said Pat Lippold, political director for 1199 SEIU. “He is a genuine leader and a genuine individual. He has the ability to turn this state around and beat Larry Hogan in the fall.”
Segun Eubanks, who chairs the Prince George’s County school board and supported County Executive Rushern L. Baker III for governor, said Democrats must present a clear and concise message on Hogan’s record, especially concerning education.
“When you look at Gov. Hogan’s education record, it’s somewhere between bad and nonexistent,” he said. “In the core areas of education … when he was involved it was mostly to cut budgets and put in proposals to privatize public schools. Hopefully people will see that.”