June 27, 2018; Slate
The unapologetically progressive Ben Jealous, former president of the NAACP, took 40 percent of the vote in a six-way contest to be the Democratic Party’s candidate for Maryland’s gubernatorial race.
Jealous is already being decried by the Republican Governor’s Association for his “extreme” views:
“Ben Jealous’ radical views make him unfit to serve as governor,” said the RGA. “Ben Jealous is promising to systematically undo all of the progress Maryland has made over the past four years by hiking taxes to never-before-seen levels in order to fund his radical pie-in-the-sky spending plans.”
But these views distinguished him from his strongest Democratic opponent, Rushern Baker, and led him to a win that many said he couldn’t possibly get. This, as the win by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez perhaps indicates, is a new way forward for the Democratic Party—standing for people who do not feel represented in ways some now characterize as extreme.
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Now, he must face off against Maryland’s incumbent Republican governor, Larry Hogan, whose enviable approval ratings peaked in January at 71 percent. A current Washington Post poll estimates that Hogan currently has a hypothetical 12-point lead on Jealous.
The campaign to stop Jealous is certain to paint him as a “free-spending candidate of the extreme left.” Hogan’s communications director, Scott Sloofman, says, “His risky and irresponsible schemes would require massive middle-class tax hikes that would wreck our economy and put thousands out of work.” Hogan, too, has come out swinging, as the Baltimore Sun documents. Then again, so has Jealous. Adam Serwer of the Atlantic reports:
Jealous ran to Baker’s left on policy, campaigning on single-payer health insurance, free in-state tuition, marijuana legalization, raising taxes on the wealthy, and shrinking the prison system. He won the backing of unions, like Maryland’s teacher’s union and the Service Employees International Union, and benefited from big donations from out of state. He also had the backing of a number of national figures, including Senators Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris. Jealous’s policy agenda would turn the state into an experiment in progressive governance, testing many of the ideas popularized during Sanders’s presidential primary run in 2016 in a single state.
“I am not running to the left. I am not running to the right. I am running towards the people of our state. Health care, education, ending mass incarceration, ending the student-debt crisis, and protecting the environment are people issues,” Jealous told supporters on Tuesday night. “And unlike Larry Hogan, I have the vision, the plans, the experience, and the courage to risk my own political standing for progress.”
There is no doubt that Jealous has mountains to climb. The candidates’ war chests are starkly different, with Hogan’s at $8.2 million and Jealous at $260,000. To that, Jealous responds, “We raised money faster than any other campaign we were up against, and now that we’re in the general, it’ll be even easier, so we feel good. We’ve got work to do, but we feel good.” But, as we know, another competitor to money is people.—Ruth McCambridge