BALTIMORE — When former NAACP President Ben Jealous officially announced his candidacy for Maryland governor last week, some viewed the move as a change of political stature.
Jealous, 44, could also become the leader of a progressive movement with personal family history decades ago when his black mother and white father couldn’t legally marry.
Jealous, a longtime civil rights activist who became the youngest person to serve as NAACP president at age 35, seeks his first foray into politics with a few agenda items: increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, eliminate mass incarceration and ensure those from underserved communities receive affordable health care.
He received an endorsement three weeks before his announcement from Democracy for America, a national progressive group with 26,000 Maryland members. The group also supports Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), who Jealous worked for as a surrogate during last year’s Democratic presidential primary.
While standing outside his cousin’s flower shop in the city, where his grandfather moved to 80 years ago, he took a few shots at Gov. Larry Hogan for not speaking up against President Donald Trump and his policies.
“We come here today as Americans in the midst of a precarious moment in our nation’s history,” he said. “Every branch controlled by far-right win extremists who control our government, extremists who threaten to take us all backwards. Increasingly alarmed, it seems like every week our governor becomes a little more like the lion in the Wizard of Oz — all strength and no political courage.”
Hogan’s office did not respond to phone calls and emails for comment.
As of Saturday, June 3, Jealous is the second Democrat to officially announce his candidacy for the June 2018 gubernatorial primary, following Alec Ross, a tech entrepreneur and an adviser to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Other Democrats mulling a run include Rep. John Delaney (D-Maryland), state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III.
The winner will have a tough challenge against Hogan, who seeks to become the first Republican governor in Maryland in more than five decades to win a second straight term.
A Goucher College poll from February shows Hogan has a 63 percent job approval rating.
Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Maryland) admitted it will be a challenge to unseat Hogan. Brown hasn’t endorsed any particular Democrat in next year’s primary, but said the race will be competitive.
“The thing about the Democratic party, we have a lot of talent,” he said after meeting with business leaders in Upper Marlboro on Thursday, June 1. “The voters will have rich options for which to choose.”
Prince George’s County
Jealous continues his work toward social change as a partner for Kapor Capital, an investment firm based in Oakland that commit finances to tech companies pushing for diversity in the industry. He resides in Pasadena in Anne Arundel County, a jurisdiction that borders Prince George’s and its population of 908,000 with more than half of them registered to vote that could influence the governor’s race.
He pointed amid dozens of supporters in the West Baltimore neighborhood of Ashburton how underserved neighborhoods in Baltimore and Prince George’s still received no help from the state.
“We’ve seen new industries created in our state … [but] entire populations have been excluded,” he said after the May 31 announcement. “We’ve got to get back to inclusion. We’ve got to get back to building a Maryland … that has a great future and Prince George’s County and Baltimore City have to be central parts of that future.”
Those in Prince George’s who will support Jealous include Bob Ross, president of the county’s NAACP branch; Virginia Kase, chief operating officer for CASA de Maryland; and Cheverly Town Councilman Julian Ivey, son of former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey.
“I’m passionate about the same issues that he is passionate about,” said Julian Ivey, who stood near Jealous at the podium as he made his announcement. “This could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the activist community to take the biggest seat in the state of Maryland. It’s now or never.”