By Rob Velazquez
Ben Jealous won the Democratic Primary in June, beating his opponent Rushern Baker of Prince George’s county by 10% of the vote. The thing most people seem to forget is that for much of the primary, Jealous trailed Baker by that very gap. The road to Annapolis seems to be a steep journey for Jealous, but not an impossible one.
Jealous won the democratic primary with a progressive base similar to that of the coalition of Sen. Bernie Sanders. He continued the message of raising minimum wage, promoting healthcare for all, creating state job programs, expanding public education and even offering to work towards tuition-free higher education. While Sen. Sanders offered great ideas in his bid for the candidacy in 2016, Jealous delivers the long-awaited details of the plan. Recently, he released an in-depth view of his economic proposal giving Maryland a glimpse at what a Jealous administration hopes to deliver.
“Make It In Maryland” is an economic proposal that invests in the working class of Maryland, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2023, connecting the entire state with a large investment in transportation infrastructure, and creating jobs in the process. Jealous even hopes to invest in university technology programs and Maryland tech startups to grow a tech industry that can thrive and compete with Palo Alto and Boston. The proposal brings technological opportunity to the agricultural sector in Maryland through the use of microclimate analysis.
The proposals Jealous is delivering are not wild hopes or speculative dreams. He delivers the proposal with data and evidence from thriving cities and states from around the country. It is the distinct difference between Jealous and other progressive candidates.
While the Republican Governor’s Association continues attacking Jealous with chopped up sound bites taken out of context, it is important to remember who Ben Jealous is as a professional. Jealous was the youngest president and CEO of the NAACP, while navigating the organization through the 2008 recession he nearly doubled the organization’s revenue by 2013. He would expand the NAACP to include programs on education, healthcare and environmental justice. Jealous and the NAACP advocated for the abolishment of the death penalty in Maryland and led the cause nationwide. Jealous is currently a partner in Kapor Capital, an Oakland, CA based capital investment firm with an eye on investing into companies that directly impact and address social issues. His roots dig deep into West Baltimore and he comes from a long line of activists and organizers. He can, for all intents and purposes, put his money where his mouth is.
The difficulty for the Jealous campaign was delivered by a recent poll from Gonzales Research and Media Services showing Governor Hogan leading the race 52 to 36 percent but leaving 11 percent of voters undecided. Given that Jealous entered this race as an underdog to Rushern Baker, there is plenty of time to sway voters.
The Jealous campaign started as a grassroots coalition, meeting voters at their doorstep or hometown and talking about kitchen table issues that affect day to day lives. If he continues to meet with voters from across the state, he may just stand a chance but, according to a recent article from the Washington Post, Jealous skipped the Maryland Association of Counties summer gathering in Ocean City to meet with voters in Frederick and Baltimore City. A 90 year-long political tradition with representatives from all counties in Maryland. If Jealous were to lose this race, it would not be for lack of effective policy but for lack of effective campaign management. For historical context, look to the debates of the 2016 campaign of Hillary Clinton losing Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
With the election less than 70 days away, Jealous has to continue building his coalition and show his record of leadership and results to every possible Maryland voter he can meet.
Ben Jealous offers a fresh perspective to the democratic landscape of 2018. He offers the possibility of a winning coalition that is intent on taking on the problems of the working class of Maryland with targeted and thoughtful policy. With all of the hype around young candidates claiming “democratic socialism” as a party affiliation, Jealous maintains his stance as a democrat, organizer, activist, educator and investor. While the RGA continues their onslaught of attack ads and name calling, calling him a “far-left socialist,” Jealous simply leans in to what he truly is. “Go ahead call me a socialist. That doesn’t change the fact that I’m a venture capitalist.” His experience and intuition are his greatest asset in this race. The only question is how the campaign will close the 14-point gap needed to insure a victory that takes Mr. Jealous to Annapolis.