Tag Archives: Ben Jealous

National Insider Ben Jealous on the Outside in Maryland

Ben Jealous is the latest in a long line of national political figures with little to no experience running for office who try to parachute into Maryland politics and find the landing rocky.

Republicans often tried this strategy in the past due to the dearth of local talent. Barbara Mikulski easily dispatched Linda Chavez to win her Senate seat in 1986. Paul Sarbanes defeated Alan Keyes with little trouble in 1988 and Mikulski trounced him in 1992.

More recently, Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend lost to Bob Ehrlich. While Townsend had developed Maryland roots, her strong links to the Kennedys undermined perception of her as a local. Moreover, her only successful previous run for office was as lieutenant governor on Parris Glendenning’s ticket.

Though many Marylanders hail from elsewhere, especially in the DC area, Maryland identity remains strong. Candidates perceived as having stronger national than local ties don’t do well.

The relatively unknown Jealous smartly likes to tout his Maryland roots. His bio page on the campaign web page states he “has lived in Maryland throughout his career as a civil rights leader and businessman.”

Unfortunately, it’s a four Pinocchio. Jealous only began voting here in 2012. He was touted as a candidate for mayor of Oakland (California not Maryland) in 2008, and voted in California in 2006 and 2008. Even when Jealous headed the Baltimore-based NAACP, he lived in DC, where he voted from 2000 to 2004, and in 2010 to 2011.

His running mate, Susie Turnbull, has been active in Maryland much longer, including as head of the Maryland Democratic Party. Like Jealous, she has not run previously for local office. Instead, she was Vice Chair of the DNC and worked for Members of Congress.

It didn’t help when Jealous began his campaign by talking about removing Larry Hogan from “the White House” and Turnbull spoke about when she moved to “Washington” and meant Maryland.

Jealous’s primary campaign had far more backing from national than local Democratic officials. He touted endorsements from Sens. Bernie Sanders, Corey Booker and Kamala Harris, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, and New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio.

Meanwhile, he did not tout a single endorsement by a local official during the primary on the endorsement page on his web site. Jealous’s primary campaign benefited heavily from an independent expenditure campaign by one-percenter Californians.

As the Democratic nominee, Jealous now has the backing of most elected Democrats, though many expect him to lose and are not heavily invested in his campaign. Jealous’s tendency during the primary campaign to make Sanders-like attacks on the Annapolis Democratic establishment yet simultaneously take credit for so much of their work, understandably grated and hasn’t been forgotten. Comptroller Peter Franchot and Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett have not endorsed him.

Jealous has felt lots of love from the national political establishment and from ultra-progressives. Not so much from Maryland officials or Maryland general elections voters.

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MoCo Gubernatorial Primary: Precinct Results

By Adam Pagnucco.

Former NAACP President Ben Jealous won every county in Maryland in the Democratic primary except Prince George’s and Calvert, where Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker outpolled him.  In MoCo, Jealous received 35.6% of the vote and Baker received 32.5%, a difference of 3.1 points.  The precinct results we show below only include election day votes, which accounted for 68% of the votes cast for gubernatorial candidates in MoCo.  Still, they show the patterns of voting for Jealous and Baker as well as for Senator Rich Madaleno (D-18), who finished third in the county, and former Michelle Obama aide Krish Vignarajah, who finished fourth.

Overall, MoCo saw a two-man race between Jealous and Baker.  Madaleno was a distant third; he finished first in Kensington but no higher than third anywhere else, including in District 18.  Vignarajah was fourth overall but finished third in Council District 2, State Legislative District 39 and several areas mostly located in Upcounty.  Generally speaking, Baker did well in white, wealthy areas in the southwest while Jealous won almost everywhere else.

Jealous’s Five Best Local Areas

  • Brookeville: 48% (first)
  • Takoma Park and Damascus: 46% (first)
  • Montgomery Village: 43% (first)
  • Silver Spring East County: 43% (first)

Jealous’s Five Worst Local Areas

  • Bethesda: 31% (second)
  • Leisure World: 31% (second)
  • Potomac: 28% (second)
  • Kensington: 28% (third)
  • Chevy Chase: 25% (second)

Baker’s Five Best Local Areas

  • Cabin John: 41% (first)
  • Bethesda: 39% (first)
  • Leisure World: 39% (first)
  • Potomac: 39% (first)
  • Chevy Chase: 38% (first)

Baker’s Five Worst Local Areas

  • Glenmont/Norbeck: 25% (second)
  • Clarksburg: 24% (second)
  • Poolesville: 24% (second)
  • Brookeville: 24% (second)
  • Damascus: 21% (second)

The racial differences in voting between Jealous and Baker can be easily seen in the demographic splits.  Baker won majority white precincts and the size of his advantage grew as the white percentage rose.  Jealous won “majority minority” precincts by 14 points.

One more factor to consider is the Washington Post, which endorsed Baker and attacked Jealous.  In a forthcoming blog post, we will compare the performance of Council At-Large candidates endorsed by the Post to those who were endorsed by MCEA.  The Post candidates’ performance was strongest compared to those supported by MCEA in Chevy Chase, Cabin John, Bethesda and Potomac – many of the same places where Baker performed best and Jealous performed worst.

We show the full splits below.

  

While Jealous won MoCo, he lost in the wealthy areas that tend to have disproportionate numbers of campaign contributors.  That’s an important fact to note since Jealous is trailing Governor Larry Hogan badly in fundraising from MoCo.  Jealous should tap into any MoCo surrogates he has, especially in Chevy Chase, Bethesda, Potomac and Kensington, to help him fortify those areas and raise money from them.  If they don’t come around to the Democratic nominee, Jealous’s path to Government House will be that much harder.

Next, we will begin looking at the County Executive candidates.

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Who is Paying for RGA’s Campaign?

By Adam Pagnucco.

As we have previously written, the Republican Governors Association (RGA) has launched a TV and mail campaign promoting Governor Larry Hogan and attacking Democratic nominee Ben Jealous.  RGA is a 527, not a PAC or a federal political committee regulated by the FEC, and since the Citizens United decision it is free to advocate for and against candidates.  However, in Maryland, it is registered as an Independent Expenditure (IE) Committee and must disclose its contributions and expenditures.

Below are the 21 entities (17 organizations and 4 individuals) who have contributed to RGA’s Maryland IE account.  They have combined to contribute $1,037,500 to the campaign.  All but one (Gary Mangum of Bell Nursery) are from out of state.

The four healthcare and pharmaceutical companies contributed $300,000, which is interesting considering that Jealous is known for advocating single payer healthcare.  Indeed, one of RGA’s TV ads slams Jealous’s healthcare proposal over its alleged cost.  The $100,000 contribution by student testing firm Data Recognition Corporation is also noteworthy.  Is it seeking contracts in Maryland?

One more item from the IE filings stands out: the vendors collecting its money are all based out of state.  Are there no consultants based in Maryland who are capable of doing political work?  So far, the IE has spent $1,648,663 on TV, online ads, mail and consulting fees.  Compare that to the $2.9 million raised by Jealous’s campaign for the entire cycle.

RGA’s last IE report was dated July 11.  If the campaign continues, there will be more reports.  Who knows how much they will spend by the time they are done?

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RGA Hits Jealous on Taxes

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Republican Governors Association (RGA) is up with a second TV ad, this one claiming that Democratic nominee Ben Jealous would raise taxes and “would blow a Chesapeake Bay-sized hole in the state budget.”  That latter quote comes from a Washington Post editorial opposing Jealous’s proposal to offer free tuition for Marylanders at public colleges.  RGA’s campaign, which also includes mail to Democrats, may be early but the risk is that it will define Jealous before Jealous gets to define himself.

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Hogan is Blowing Out Jealous in MoCo Fundraising

By Adam Pagnucco.

Montgomery County is sometimes referred to as “the ATM of Maryland.”  That’s because it’s the largest single source of tax revenue for the state and generates much of the state aid that is sent to other jurisdictions.  But in politics, MoCo is also the ATM of statewide Democratic politicians.  U.S. Senators, Governors, Attorneys General, Comptrollers and candidates for those offices are heavily dependent on the county for political money.  Sure, they raise money from Downtown Baltimore, Roland Park, Towson, Pikesville, Owings Mills and Annapolis too, but from a fundraising perspective, nothing compares to the mansions of Chevy Chase, Bethesda and Potomac.

Now there’s a new person claiming MoCo as his political ATM.  He’s not a Democrat.  He is Republican Governor Larry Hogan, and he is blowing out the Democratic nominee, Ben Jealous.

Hogan’s fundraising edge is well known.  But what has not been previously reported is how much money he is raising from Montgomery County.  The table below shows that he has raised $13.5 million over the cycle with $1.5 million coming from MoCo.  That’s about five times the $303,376 amount that MoCo donors have given to Jealous.

Hogan’s edge in business fundraising is huge; Jealous only received three contributions from MoCo business entities totaling $1,750.  But Hogan has a 5-to-1 edge in MoCo individual contributions too and it is not solely due to big checks.  Hogan’s average contribution from MoCo individuals is $239; for Jealous, that figure is $196.  Do the rough math and it’s obvious that waaaaaaaay more people in MoCo have given money to Hogan than Jealous.

How does this compare to previous races?  Below we compare fundraising by the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial tickets over the last four cycles.  Running mate accounts are included.  MoCo results are shown at top and grand totals are shown at bottom.  All data is through June 10, the cutoff for the most recent 2018 report, to make the data comparable across cycles.

Of the prior three cycles, 2006 is the most comparable to the present day since it had a GOP Governor and a Democratic challenger.  One difference was that Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley was running against MoCo Executive Doug Duncan, who had a natural advantage in MoCo fundraising.  Even so, O’Malley did not trail Governor Bob Ehrlich by much in MoCo and had a modest advantage in total fundraising.  In the next two cycles, the Democrats blew out the GOP nominees in both MoCo and in total raised.  Interestingly, Hogan’s MoCo fundraising this cycle is similar to the amounts raised from MoCo by O’Malley in 2010 and the Anthony Brown/Ken Ulman team in 2014.  Meanwhile, Jealous’s MoCo fundraising is in the same ballpark as what Ehrlich collected from the county in 2010.

That means the Hogan-Jealous gap, both in MoCo and overall, is extremely unusual by historical standards.  It’s not surprising that an incumbent Governor would lead in fundraising.  It IS surprising that he would blow out a challenger in the number one financial stronghold for the opposing party by five to one.  And Hogan is doing that with former Maryland Democratic Party Chair and long-time MoCo player Susan Turnbull on Jealous’s ticket.

Jealous became the Democratic nominee shortly after this reporting period closed.  With his primary rivals out of the way, he should begin raising more money from MoCo and other Democratic money sources soon.  But the financial gap he has against Hogan is probably too big to be closed.  And a big reason for that is Hogan’s support from MoCo donors.

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RGA Promotes Hogan, Blasts Jealous

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Republican Governors Association (RGA) is promoting Governor Larry Hogan and attacking Democratic nominee Ben Jealous in a new mailer.  The mailer praises Hogan on education spending but neglects to mention that he cut K-12 state aid in his first budget and was forced by the General Assembly to fully fund it in years going forward.  As for the mailer’s other side, it puts forth a message we are going to hear a lot about: the notion that a Ben Jealous administration will aggressively raise taxes.

The mailer below was received by multiple Democrats in Montgomery County.

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The Democrats Gamble on Jealous

The Democratic have placed a bet with the nomination of Ben Jealous that a more left-wing progressive candidate will energize voters, especially the growing share of minority voters, and beat Gov. Larry Hogan. As Barry Goldwater once said, Jealous “will offer a choice, not an echo.”

Will it work? It’s an interesting test for the progressive wing’s thesis that the Democrats need to run more vocal, left-wing candidates. If it doesn’t work in blue Maryland in what is shaping up to be a very good Democratic year, where and when can it work?

This strategy runs counter to the 2014 gubernatorial post-mortem. Many argued that then-Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s 2014 campaign needed to deliver a message more clearly. But few thought his defeat resulted from an insufficiently left-wing platform. After all, the O’Malley-Brown administration had raised taxes to protect against the decimation of state services during the recession and to fund transportation infrastructure. O’Malley led the successful referenda fights on the Maryland DREAM Act and marriage equality.

The Jealous Agenda

Nevertheless, Jealous will run on the most left-wing platform in living memory. Jealous wants to enact single-payer health care, raise teacher pay by 29%, fund full-day pre-K education, make college free, staff schools with mental health professionals, spend significant dollars fighting the opioid epidemic, provide summer youth employment, expand public transit substantially, and offer public sector jobs when no private sector work is available.

Jealous has also attacked incrementalism or half measures, telling voters how his grandmother said that if you solve half of a problem, you still have a problem. As a result, it’s now hard for Jealous to backpedal and talk gradualism. It runs counter to his whole message.

How Hogan Will Attack Jealous

In a previous post, I looked at Jealous’s advantages heading into the general election. But what vulnerabilities will Hogan exploit?

Jealous’s agenda is expensive. Very expensive. Gov. Larry Hogan’s campaign will go after Jealous, as they would any Democratic opponent, as wanting to raise taxes. Jealous says it will only be on the top 1% of taxpayers and on legalized marijuana. Combined with savings from criminal justice reform and building fewer roads, that will pay for everything.

The list of extremely expensive services Jealous wants to add to the state budget may render voters doubtful of these claims. Many voters will also be concerned about the impact of another tax hike and an indexed $15 minimum wage on the economy. Unlike in a Democratic primary, attacking Hogan (and thus voters on the fence) as needing a stronger commitment to social justice if they have qualms will alienate rather than impress.

Hogan will undoubtedly try to use fear of major tax hikes to divide the Democratic coalition, and to pick off economically successful voters, disproportionately white and Asian, who may be more liberal on social than economic issues. Jealous will attempt to frame the debate as the 1% versus the rest of us. Hogan will alternatively style himself as a protector of taxpayers.

Jealous’s embrace of altering school funding formulas to take more money from wealthier counties to give more to needier counties will aid Hogan’s efforts. In Montgomery, for example, Hogan can position himself as a protector of the county’s prized school system, against Jealous’s efforts to send yet more MoCo money elsewhere.

It’s hard to imagine an issue more likely to pry Democratic voters away here. In Maryland’s secular heartland, lots of people have an ambivalent relationship with organized religion but everyone believes in education with fervor.

Jealous’s characterization of the violence in the wake of Freddie Grey’s death due to injuries inflicted during his arrest as an “uprising” rather than “riots” will also to raise eyebrows. Few would dispute that the Baltimore City police is in dire need of radical reform. But Hogan may well ask Jealous how senseless destruction advanced the causes of police reform and racial justice?

One building that burned down was a nearly finished project to provide affordable housing for seniors and a community center with job training and HIV counseling among other services. (Rev. Donte Hickman’s tireless efforts resulted in the project’s completion despite these daunting setbacks.) Again, attacking Hogan or voters for being insufficiently woke or committed to racial justice seems an unlikely vote-winning strategy.

Will Linking Hogan to Trump Work?

Beyond his own message, Jealous will relentlessly link Hogan to Trump and the need to send a message to the Republicans. However, Hogan hasn’t touched the hot-button social issues and hasn’t stopped gun control legislation. Despite his loud grumbling about taxes, Maryland has not undergone anything like the disastrous state downsizing in the name of tax cuts that has failed so miserably in Kansas and Louisiana.

Even O’Malley’s gas tax remains in effect with Hogan happy to travel around the state announcing new roads. Jealous promises to refocus the money, which also seems likely to displease the many voters who favor the new road projects. Hogan’s pie-in-the-sky plan to widen I-495 and I-270 gains fans from people who like that he is at least thinking about addressing to their traffic woes and don’t think transit will get them there.

Conclusion

Jealous has an exciting vision to sell. It also provides a buffet of avenues for a Republican to attack. By running as a left-wing progressive, Jealous has also left open centrist turf that Hogan will be eager to occupy as a mainstream problem solver. It will be up to Jealous to prove skeptical political observers, who rate the race as Likely Republican, wrong.

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Looking Ahead for Jealous-Turnbull

Today is a day for winners to celebrate and the Ben Jealous-Susie Turnbull ticket is certainly entitled to do that after an impressive win with just under 40% of vote in a crowded field, according to preliminary returns. (I don’t expect absentee or provisional ballots to change the results much.).

Perhaps most impressively, Jealous carried 22 of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions. The exceptions were Prince George’s, Rushern Baker’s home base, and Calvert, which is right next door. Even in Prince George’s, Jealous did respectably. Baker won 50% to 38% for Jealous – not far off his statewide percentage.

While not a majority, it sets up Jealous well as the clear winner and better positioned than eking out a narrow statewide win as he pivots to the general election. One might also note that the top two candidates were both African Americans and together won 88% of the vote, which should perhaps quiet talk that Democrats are unwilling to vote for black candidates for a bit.

The biggest advantages Jealous has going into the general election are the political nature of the state and national trends. Maryland is one of the few states that voted slightly more for Hillary Clinton in 2016 than for Barack Obama in 2012. Places Clinton won with 60% of the vote are not looking good for Republicans lately.

Even more crucially, the political climate is utterly reversed from four years ago. In 2014, the Democratic vote was depressed as a Republican wave crossed the country. Today, Maryland Democrats are hopping mad and energized in opposition to Trump and his supine Republican supporters.

Hogan will try to distance himself from his party label but in a Democratic state in a Democratic year, waves can overtake even the best efforts. Regardless, the popular Hogan will have to continue to run a good campaign to stay in office.

So today is a day for Jealous and his supporters to celebrate. Next up, what challenges does Jealous face as he looks to become Maryland’s governor?

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The Jealous Speaking Fee File

Today, a list of Ben Jealous’s compensated speaking engagements popped into my email inbox. Apparently, Jealous has frequently charged high fees at public universities that contrast uneasily with his demands to make college tuition free.

Read the full file, entitled “Jealous Charged Public Universities & Community Colleges Over $85,000 In Speaking Fees Amid Tuition Hikes & University Budget Crises” below:

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The Ups and Downs of Jealous’s Financial Stewardship of the NAACP

Ben Jealous likes to tout his leadership at the NAACP. Managing the State’s budget is a central responsibility of the governor. How did he handle the NAACP’s finances?

Examination of the organization’s tax returns reveals that Jealous’s leadership at the NAACP had a major impact on the organization’s finances. He increased the revenue – and expenditures – of the NAACP dramatically.

NAACP revenue rose from $24.7 million in 2008 to $43.2 million in 2012, an impressive 75% increase. However, it dropped back to $31.0 million in the last year of Jealous’s tenure before his abrupt departure after the first year of a new multiyear contract. (Jealous refused to explain the reasons for his leaving in an interview with The New Republic.) Revenue has since continued to decline, falling to $24.4 million in 2016.

Expenditures tracked revenue closely, and rose from $21.5 million in 2008 to $42.6 million in 2012 before falling back to $36.8 million in 2013. Since Jealous left the NAACP, spending has continued to fall, reaching $24.8 million in 2013.

My sense that Jealous did an amazing job at the start of expanding the organization’s revenue, and thus activities, but that it did not prove sustainable. Both revenue and expenditures dropped substantially in the last year of his leadership. Jealous did not leave the organization able to maintain even this level of revenue or expenditures, as both continued to fall.

The net impact of Jealous’s financial stewardship is overall less impressive than his ability to increase the organization’s profile. In the first four years of his leadership, the NAACP’s largest surplus was $0.6 million and its largest deficit was $1.3 million. However, the deficit jumped to $5.8 million in his final year – the largest in the 16 year period examined here.

The impact on net assets is more disturbing. After increasing the organization’s assets from $12.7 million to $17.3 million, Jealous then oversaw their fall to just $8.0 million in the final year of his leadership – a drop of 37% from his arrival and 54% from the best position under his leadership.

Assets continued to fall after Jealous left, reaching a low of $3.0 million in 2015 before rising to $3.8 million in 2018. Again, this doesn’t present a picture of an organization left on very stable footing when Jealous left.

Ironically, this progressive tribune presents a great example of how the well off have continued to do well even as the incomes of ordinary people have stagnated. Jealous’s compensation rose from $285,000 in the first full year of his tenure to $375,114 in his final year, an increase of 32%.

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