BALTIMORE – Former NAACP President Ben Jealous won the Maryland Democratic nomination for governor on Tuesday, giving him a shot at becoming the state's first black governor and setting up a battle between the progressive candidate and a popular Republican incumbent.
Jealous beat Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker in the crowded primary. In November, Jealous will face Gov. Larry Hogan, who hopes to become the first GOP governor re-elected in Maryland since 1954. Hogan was unchallenged for his party's nomination.
Jealous supports tuition-free college educations and expanding Medicare to all. He also advocates raising teacher pay by 29 percent and funding full-day, universal pre-kindergarten with tax revenue from his proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
Jealous won support from leading liberals on the national stage, including Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who rallied with him in Silver Spring outside of an early voting center. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California also endorsed him. Comedian Dave Chappelle and Ben Cohen, a co-founder of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, made stops in Maryland to appear with the candidate.
In 2008 at age 35, Jealous became the youngest person elected to lead the Baltimore-based NAACP, the nation's oldest civil rights organization. After five years at the helm, Jealous was credited with improving the NAACP's finances and donor base.
Jealous campaigned on plans to reduce the state's prison population to save money. One of his proposals includes ending cash bail and ensuring people stay in jail awaiting trial because they are a public safety threat, not because they are too poor to pay bail.
He supports continuing police reform efforts, including changes to the state's Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights so that all allegations of police brutality are investigated, regardless of when the complaint is made.
Hogan is widely popular in the state, where Democrats control many other elected offices, including the General Assembly. He has kept President Donald Trump at arm's length, not attending the Republican presidential convention in 2016 and writing in his father's name when voting for president that year. More recently, Hogan responded to the immigrant family separation crisis on the U.S. border with Mexico by ordering home Maryland's four National Guard members deployed to the Southwest.
Jealous ran in a diverse primary that included nine candidates, including two all-female tickets. While crowded, the primary, for the most part, was a quiet one with the candidates agreeing on many issues and focusing criticism on the governor. However, the sudden death of one candidate, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, shook up the race in May. His running mate, Valerie Ervin, decided to run in his place, though she later dropped out to back Baker.