Category Archives: 2022 Governor’s Race

Smart Choice, Puzzling Choice

Two Democratic gubernatorial candidates have already chosen running mates for the Lt. Governor slot on their ticket. One created buzz but the other inspired head scratching.

Wes Moore Picks Aruna Miller

Former Del. Aruna Miller (D-15) is well-liked and well-respected among her former colleagues in the General Assembly and more generally among people active in Montgomery politics. For Wes Moore, a running mate from the D.C. area balances his own roots in Baltimore. It also is a choice that indicates not only that Moore is dead set on becoming governor but also that he’s supported by a respected former legislator and cares seriously about governing.

Four years ago, Miller ran for the U.S. House in the Sixth District. Despite having a good base of volunteer support and solid fundraising, she lost to now Rep. David Trone, who had pots of money and was already well-known in the media market due to his unsuccessful run in the neighboring Eighth. Though ending in disappointment, the run raised Miller’s profile and created a positive impression.

Rushern Baker Picks Nancy Navarro

Baker has thrown any sense of geographic balance to the wind by reaching out all the way from Prince George’s to Montgomery to pick Nancy Navarro. Though a former County Council President, Navarro’s profile in the county is not especially high outside of her council district. Navarro’s emphasis on being a tribune for the Latino community has limited her broad appeal without nailing down the Latino vote, which is sticking with Tom Perez. Navarro is known neither as a prolific fundraiser nor a relentless campaigner.

At the Committee for Montgomery Forum, Rushern Baker touted Navarro’s racial equity legislation that requires analysis of all legislation from a racial equity perspective as what he’d bring to Maryland to address racial disparities. Whatever one thinks of expanding the diversity bureaucracy, it’s a proposal that connects with a narrow base rather than a broad swath of voters and jars with Baker’s image as a proud Black but non-identity based politician.


First Impressions

Doug Gansler, Wes Moore, Tom Perez and Rushern Baker

The Committee for Montgomery’s annual legislative breakfast at the Bethesda Marriott Conference Center is one of those annual events that brings together the political class of Montgomery County for a good schmooze. This year, CfM also held a forum moderated by Washington Post Reporter Ovetta Wiggins that was open to all gubernatorial candidates. For me, it was either the first time seeing the candidate or the first time in a long while.

Wes Moore is the candidate that stood out as a comer. By far the best speaker in the group, he came across as authentic rather than simply silver tongued. Getting former Del. Aruna Miller to be his running mate adds legislative experience. I still don’t know much about him but he’s one to watch.

After getting shellacked by Anthony Brown in 2014, former Attorney General Doug Gansler is back for another go. He’s running as a practical liberal—moderate by Maryland standards—who has the experience to get things done. The subtext is that he’s also matured and grown since his time out from politics.

Tom Perez would be the first Latino governor but is also running as the insider, establishment candidate who knows just everyone. As well he should. Since he finished his one term on the Montgomery County Council in 2006, he’s served as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Secretary of Labor and DNC Chair. That gives him a lot of chits and fundraising ability but also means that he’s little known by voters.

Former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, one of the most decent people in Maryland politics, lost the primary for governor in 2018 but left many thinking he would’ve been the better nominee. The forum left me wondering exactly why he wants to be governor. He highlighted his Montgomery running mate, Nancy Navarro.

Ashwani Jain is campaigning as young, smart and passionate progressive, but I just don’t get it. He ran for one of four at-large county council seats in 2018 and came in eighth in the primary. Not a signal to run for governor. Likes to consult his diary.

Former New York Education Commissioner and Secretary of Education John King seems like another smart guy who nobody knows and who failed to stand out, even on education, in a crowd of candidates who are better known and more experienced on the Maryland scene. Left me wondering why he’s running.

Jon Baron struck me as yet another earnest, perfectly likeable candidate with primarily Washington experience who won’t gain traction. This year’s Alec Ross?

Comptroller Peter Franchot is from Montgomery County yet didn’t show. Not especially popular with the political class, he returned the compliment. They aren’t the base of this former hard progressive, now moderate, so I doubt it matters.

Robin Ficker showed up with his hackneyed anti-tax message. He promised to cut the sales tax by 2%, which he oddly labelled a rebate, but per usual didn’t mention one spending item he’d cut. He attacked teachers “Where were they?” for not teaching and went after mask mandates for school kids, though he’s vaccinated.

Neither Del. Dan Cox, (R-QAnon) nor former Del. and Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz showed. Perhaps a missed opportunity for Schulz. Though a Democratic heartland, Montgomery still casts a lot of Republican primary votes and she’ll need to make inroads here like Larry Hogan to win in the general.

Libertarian Larry Lashar came across as what Republicans used to be—a bit dull but with a coherent viewpoint and some innovative ideas, like school choice. If the Republicans nominate a wackadoodle, he could get more votes than your usual third-party candidate.

Ovetta Wiggins did an excellent job as moderator by asking straightforward policy-oriented questions and letting the forum be about the candidates.


Progressive Juuling with Ben Jealous

After Gov. Larry Hogan trounced him at the polls in 2018, Ben Jealous moved fast from his job as a venture capitalist to combining it with new work as a corporate consultant for Juul. Jealous’s hiring appears part of a larger effort to blackwash the vaping company through strategic donations and hiring connected African-American leaders.

The corporately credulous may believe that Jealous is taking Juul’s money in order to keep kids away from vaping. The FDA called out Juul for illegally claiming that its harmful products are safer than cigarettes. Juul is also being sued for marketing to youth. Montgomery County filed its own lawsuit against Juul last week.

Progressive Maryland (PM) has not only ignored Jealous’s ties to a truly awful corporation but also embraced him since he started working for Juul.

PM brought Jealous in to speak on mass incarceration at a September event. During his campaign, Jealous oddly used statistics from Georgia rather than Maryland on this topic. He also made no mention of significant reforms made thanks to General Assembly Democrats. Maryland Matters coverage of the PM event similarly quotes Jealous on the issue from a national rather than a state perspective.

Jealous used Progressive Maryland’s platform to tout a potential 2022 gubernatorial bid. This comes shortly after he dropped a floated bid for mayor of Baltimore because he wants to spend more time with his 7- and 13-year old kids. “I’ve really got to focus on running my daughter to rowing practice in South Baltimore and running my son to baseball practice in Roland Park.”

Jealous nonetheless felt okay with running for governor two years ago and already is making soundings for a 2022 run, so it seems more likely that other reasons came into play. Hogan criticized Jealous for his recent residence in Maryland—the 2018 primary was the very first in which he voted in Maryland. His Baltimore residency is of even more recent vintage.

Running for mayor might also have entailed needing to explain all that addictive Juul money. Taking big bucks from a company that is being sued for getting kids hooked on vaping instead of phonics may go down well at Progressive Maryland. A harder sell to the electorate.