Just moments after former NAACP President Ben Jealous secured Maryland’s Democratic gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, some members of the media had already begun to express doubts that he could defeat the state’s current governor, Republican Larry Hogan, in November because he’s not a “real Marylander.” And while he was born and raised in California, his family’s history includes his mother having grown up in Baltimore and where he spent summers during his youth with his maternal grandparents and his parents who, due to the state’s laws prohibiting interracial marriages, exchanged their vows in D.C., then briefly lived in Baltimore before moving to California in the early ’70s.
But he’ll also have to contend with money and race — two factors that have traditionally been insurmountable hurdles for minorities seeking the governor’s seat in their respective states.
Still, Jealous, a leading supporter of Bernie Sanders, who knocked off six candidates in Maryland’s Democratic primary including Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, can prove the naysayers wrong if he, as well as Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, win this fall and become only the third and fourth African Americans elected governor in U.S. history — something only Virginia’s Doug Wilder and Massachusetts’ Deval Patrick can claim more than 100 years after Louisiana Lt. Gov. P.B.S. Pinchback became America’s first Black governor in 1871 when scandals led to the impeachment of the governor allowing Pinchback to serve out the term.
We realize that Jealous and Abrams, who would also be the first African-American woman elected as governor, have their hands full, if for no other reason that they must find ways to gain the support of Blacks and Whites, while not seeming too pro-Black.
Jealous and his team have already hit the ground running and, in a notion similar to Donald Trump, who welcomed the outsider role during his run for the White House, says he’ll bring significant change to the office.
It’s going to a fascinating campaign season for both Jealous and Maryland’s current governor, Larry Hogan, whose very high approval rates could make his upcoming re-election effort a cakewalk.
But don’t count Jealous out as we certainly won’t because “it’s not over until the fat lady sings.” This will be one for the records.