Former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous Expected to Announce Run for Maryland Governor

By Benjamin Jealous
Former NAACP president Benjamin Jealous, who served as a surrogate for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) during his 2016 presidential campaign, is expected to formally declare his candidacy for Maryland governor this week, according to a person with direct knowledge of the plans.Jealous, who has made a name for himself in recent years as a voice for liberal Democratic groups, has been widely expected to enter the race. But over the weekend, members of Our Revolution, the political nonprofit that grew out of Sanders’s failed presidential campaign, received emails inviting them to an announcement on Wednesday touted as “Ben’s Big Day.”

But the person with knowledge of the plans, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak for the campaign, said the announcement is scheduled for Wednesday in Baltimore.

A former journalist and community organizer, Jealous would offer a stark contrast to Gov. Larry Hogan, a moderate Republican with sky-high approval ratings in a blue state, and the other Democrats who have expressed interest in a 2018 bid for governor.

He is expected to be one of the more progressive candidates in what probably will be a crowded field of Democrats.

He is a strong proponent of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour; ending mass incarceration; making higher education affordable, including providing free tuition to community colleges; and providing affordable, high quality health care to residents and tax credits to growing small businesses.

Jealous, who has never held elected office, would be the second Democrat to officially enter the race. Alec Ross, a technology entrepreneur, announced his candidacy last month. State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (Montgomery) said this month that he plans to seek the Democratic nomination, but he has not officially declared.

Other Democrats considering a bid include Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, former Maryland attorney general Douglas F. Gansler, Baltimore County Executive Kevin B. Kamenetz and lawyer James L. Shea.

Many say Jealous, who has been talking to voters across the state over the past three months, has brought a new level of energy to the party, which is still reeling from then-Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown’s (D) loss to Hogan in 2014.

Jealous has not only piqued the interest of several state delegates, who have said theywould probably endorse him, but he has also won support from progressives across the state and the country.

“I’m not of the party establishment,” Jealous said during a recent interview. “My career has been working in the community with real people, where they live on their own terms to identify and achieve solutions and solve real problems in real time. It is that background as community organizer and president of the NAACP that guides my sense of what’s possible, that fuels this campaign. I know we can pull people together into big, robust and sometimes precarious coalitions to get things done in this democracy we call Maryland.”

Democracy for America, a national progressive group, endorsed Jealous earlier this month, even without a formal declaration of his candidacy.

Charles Chamberlain, the executive director of the organization, said members of the group, which was founded by former Vermont governor and Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean, have been “fired up” about a possible Jealous candidacy since February, when word spread that he was seriously considering a run.

The 44-year-old Baltimore resident was an early supporter of Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign and treasurer of Our Revolution, which aims to continue Sanders’s political movement by backing progressive candidates.

Jealous is a partner at Kapor Capital, a California-based venture capital investment firm that focuses on socially conscious businesses.

Jealous has said he considered, but decided against, running for U.S. Senate in 2015 after former senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D) announced her retirement.

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