No Joke: Dave Chappelle Stumps for Ben Jealous in Md. Governor’s Race

Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous (left) speaks alongside godbrother and comedian Dave Chappelle during a June 8 campaign rally at the Old Towne Inn in Largo. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous (left) speaks alongside godbrother and comedian Dave Chappelle during a June 8 campaign rally at the Old Towne Inn in Largo. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Dave Chappelle stands comfortably in front an audience telling jokes as a world-renowned comedian, but the Montgomery County native ventured into the world of politics Friday, June 8 during a campaign rally in Largo for Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous.

Chappelle and Jealous, who are godbrothers born six months apart, spoke of their fathers growing up together as best friends and activists.

“I have never, ever stuck my toe in politics before — I may never do it again,” Chappelle, who was raised in Silver Spring, said during the event at the Old Towne Inn. “I’m very moved to be in the state I was raised in and see my godbrother looking at you guys with the hope that we have in each other. I believe we can close the deal.”

Comedian Dave Chappelle (center) takes photos with supporters of Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous during a June 8 campaign rally at the Old Towne Inn in Largo. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Comedian Dave Chappelle (center) takes photos with supporters of Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous during a June 8 campaign rally at the Old Towne Inn in Largo. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Jealous, a former NAACP president, said Chappelle was the first person to convince him marijuana should be legal for adults.

In addition, Jealous said his career as a community organizer and Chappelle’s in comedy are similar.

“Our fathers got us started on the same path,” he said. “Trying to help heal and pull folks together.”

Friday’s event was the first in a series of “Courage to Lead” rallies, which will feature Jealous with prominent leaders and organizations backing his campaign.

In a recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll, 21 percent of Democratic voters would elect Jealous if the primary was held today. Early voting runs from Thursday, June 14 to June 21, with the primary election falling on June 26.

Jealous continues to push for support in Prince George’s County, the second biggest jurisdiction in the state and home to one of his opponents, County Executive Rushern L. Baker III. Baker came in second among Democratic voters in the poll at 15 percent.

Baker has the major political establishment in his corner that includes Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), Attorney General Brian Frosh and Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett.

More high-profile supporters that include Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Kamala Harris (D-California) back Jealous.

The other Democratic candidates the poll surveyed in single digits are: Baltimore attorney Jim Shea, state Sen. Richard Madaleno Jr. of Montgomery County; Valerie Ervin, running mate of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz who took up his bid after his death last month; Krish Vignarajah, onetime policy director for former first lady Michelle Obama; and tech entrepreneur Alec Ross.

The final two candidates not included in the poll are James Hugh Jones II, a chaplain for the Baltimore City Police Department, and Ralph Jaffe of Baltimore County.

With Baker and Jealous as the front-runners, the poll shows they would need to sway about 40 percent of undecided Democratic voters to win the nomination.

In addition, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan received a 60 percent approval rating and 60 percent of voters in the poll say the state is “headed in the right direction.”

Meanwhile, Jealous supporters believe he’ll bring change by instituting progressive policies such as $15 minimum wage, reforms for Baltimore City Police Department and universal health care for all Marylanders.

“That’s a big one for me,” said Barbara Demas-James, 71, a retired federal employee who resides in Largo. “Health care is so costly. I can hardly afford it.”

Cheryl Green, a Temple Hills resident, supports Jealous because of his work with the NAACP, and the fact that the county’s education woes, including allegations of unauthorized pay raises and grade changes, happened under Baker’s leadership.

“I cannot say whether [Baker] was personally involved,” Green said. “But there was too many things going on.”

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About William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer 524 Articles
I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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