Former NAACP President Ben Jealous Facing Uphill Climb to Become First Black Governor of Maryland

ABOVE: Benjamin Todd Jealous 

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Despite defeating six candidates to become the Democratic nominee for governor of Maryland, former NAACP president, Benjamin Todd Jealous, is still viewed as the underdog in his race against popular incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

“He’s got an uphill sled race,” says political scientist Dr. Wilmer Leon, also a radio talk show host. “Because the state of Maryland, by most statistics, is doing well. And Hogan has never proven himself to be a blind Republican ideologue. He’s more of a moderate Republican than he is an extreme right wing Republican. So, with that, it’s easier for Democrats to vote for him.”

In somewhat of an upset, Jealous beat back six other candidates in the June 28 primary, including Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, viewed as the Democratic establishment candidate. Despite this sentiment, Jealous says his “rainbow” type supporters and association with people from all walks of life is the strategy that he believes will continue to carry him to a win Nov. 6.

“The strength of this campaign, like my life, begins in Black churches in the civil rights community and gains power through the connection of those communities with the broader progressive community. That’s been the arc of my life and that’s the arc of this campaign,” he said in a recent interview with the Trice Edney News Wire. “We will win in November the same way we won June 28. We will win by traveling to every corner of the state making the case to voters in every county about how we can move forward together, about how we can make sure every school is fully funded, how we can finally get health care costs truly under control, how we can make colleges and public universities truly affordable again and how we can find the money to do it is in large part by ending mass incarceration.”

Jealous said, “The issues at the core of this campaign are not partisan issues. Treating the opioid addiction crisis is a health crisis. It’s a people issue. Funding education is a people issue. And then the student debt crisis is a people issue. Those are not partisan issues and people recognize that.”

Though some say he is an outsider until recently, his roots run deep in Maryland, Virginia, D.C. and across the nation for that matter. Jealous is former executive director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation and former president/CEO of the national NAACP.

But when describing his grassroots political training, he is clear about his roots.

“I started off in the Rainbow Coalition. I started off as a 15-year-old precinct captain for the Rev. Jesse Jackson,” he recalls. “The strategy of that campaign is what empowered L. Doug Wilder to win the governorship in Virginia a year later. And the same strategies that worked for Wilder in Virginia and David Dinkins in New York and Harold Washington in Chicago are right at the core of this campaign.”

He continues, “What we all learned in that campaign is how they won their campaigns. That’s how we won our primary and how we will win in November. We’ll build a coalition of working families across every line…There’s nothing more important to any working family than assuring that they get to move forward again.”

Like Jackson, Wilder and Dinkins, Jealous is poised to also make history. If he pulls it off, he would become the first Black governor of Maryland and the fifth Black governor in the U. S. According to recent polls, the issues may not be enough. Though Maryland is heavily Democratic, Hogan reportedly has a 68 percent approval rating across party lines.

Therefore, Jealous is going to have to pull out all stops, says Leon.

“In the eyes of some, the NAACP is not as relevant as it used to be. Plus, Hogan is not a Trump Republican,” Leon said. “So, I think you’re going to have a lot of people going to the voting booth saying if it’s not broke don’t fix it.”

However, Leon said, Jealous could win because Maryland is in fact a Democratic state. “Turn out. Turn out. Turn out” will be the key, he says. “Plus, he needs to find a way to better explain how he’s going to implement some of the policies he’s articulating because one of the knocks against him is he’s promised a lot of things and he hasn’t explained how he’s going to pay for them.”

Grassroots debaters in a local barber shop recently resolved that Jealous is the most popular candidate among Black voters, but, due to apathy, the voters he will need in a close race may not come out on Election Day. This means Jealous will need his best strategies, including his broadest rainbow, plus campaign boosts from some heavy hitters. His running mate is former Maryland Democratic Party Chair Susan Turnbull, who is running for lieutenant governor. In June, former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was largely credited for helping to drum up votes. Sanders has not given a full endorsement of Jealous, but has not been shy about pushing him.

“I’m proud to be here because Ben is not going to be one of those leaders who is going to be nibbling around the edges, but understands we have got to transform the economic and political life of this country,” said Sen. Sanders to a cheering crowd as Jealous stood by his side June 18 just before his primary election, the Associated Press reported.

Jealous is taking all the help he can get.

“Bernie is a good friend. He’s a great ally to this campaign. And he has shown the Democratic Party that the people want real solutions to the pain that our families are feeling,” Jealous said. “Who runs our states matters because the road to taking back our country runs all through our states. I’m focused on making Maryland a model for how we move forward on education, health care and the economy no matter what happens in Donald Trump’s Washington.”