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Marc Steiner weighs in on the Maryland Governor’s race, where a popular Republican incumbent has a double digit lead over the Sanders-inspired Democrat

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JAISAL NOOR: Barack Obama endorsed Democratic candidate for governor of Maryland Ben Jealous on Monday, October 1 in the second round of endorsements from the former president. This comes a week after dozens of Democratic officials rallied behind the former NAACP CEO.

Maryland’s incumbent Republican Governor Larry Hogan maintains a sizable lead, but according to the latest polls, Jealous has been boosted by a strong performance in the only scheduled debate, as well as his first round of TV ads, reducing Hogan’s lead from 22 to 15 points the week before. Hogan does maintain a 10-to-1 margin in fundraising, and some Maryland Democrats have either publicly backed him, or refused to back Ben Jealous. Democrats nationally have failed to match the over $2 million Republicans have already poured into a barrage of negative attack ads.

I recently asked jealous to respond to a Baltimore Sun article about fellow Democrats that aren’t backing him.

BEN JEALOUS: We’ve opened 24 counties across the state. We’ve hired 50 organizers. We have the support of our entire party leadership all throughout the state. And we have the opportunity here to take back the state House. The governor’s scared because he knows we can turn out way more than a million voters, and he can’t. We did it in 2010, and that’s what we’ll do this year.

JAISAL NOOR: And what his strategy is for the final weeks of the campaign.

BEN JEALOUS: I’m going to win this General Assembly- I won the primary. I defied every pollster, defied every pundit. What did we do? We stayed focused on organizing door do door and talking to people about what they know matters. How we move forward on education. How we move forward boldly on healthcare. How we move forward together to build a more robust economy. How we get back to being safe.

Under this governor, our schools have fallen from first to sixth. Healthcare costs have surged. The economy is so stuck that if we had the job growth of Virginia we’d have 40,000 more jobs, and yet their job growth is below the national average. And murders are up outside of Baltimore City 42 percent in the other 23 counties. And even higher still when you include Baltimore.

Folks know that we need a plan to move forward, and I’m the only one with a plan [inaudible].

JAISAL NOOR: For more analysis we talked to Marc Steiner, longtime radio host and currently a Real News correspondent.

What impact is Barack Obama’s endorsement going to have on Ben Jealous?

MARC STEINER: It could potentially have an incredible impact on the campaign. The question is, for me, knowing how these campaigns work, will that translate into Barack Obama doing two things: A, raising money for Ben Jealous nationally, and B, coming to Maryland to speak out, let’s say, walking with Ben Jealous in Baltimore, or somewhere in the D.C. suburbs, Prince George’s County someplace, to really kind of rev up the excitement for Ben Jealous? That’s where the rubber meets the road. Endorsement is great, but he has to take it one step beyond, I think, to make a real effect.

JAISAL NOOR: So I recently asked Maryland Democratic Party chair Kathleen Matthews about why Democrats nationally have not backed Jealous, as far as giving money to his campaign, the same way they have Democrats in several other races where they’ve poured millions of dollars.

KATHLEEN MATTHEWS: From the beginning I think Ben Jealous committed to a people-powered campaign. I am really very proud as the state party chair to be his partner in that. And what we have focused on is actually talking to voters at the grassroots. And we believe that that people-to-people conversation, that’s how you win this election. That’s how you have an authentic engagement with your voters, is by talking to them at their doors, talking to them on the telephone. It’s going to be important to have some TV ads to amplify the message, and we’re already on television. Jealous campaigns on TV, but you also see allied groups campaigning for him. And so I think the combination of the two is what’s going to win this campaign.

MARC STEINER: I mean, I think Ben Jealous has the contacts in LA among the Hollywood people. He was head of the NAACP for all those years. Made a name for himself nationally. I’m not quite sure what’s at work here, why he’s having such a difficult time. And when he says that he wants just small donations, not corporate donations, is that strategic or the reality of his inability to raise funds? It could be very strategic, could be what he wants to do. But I’ve been kind of really shocked at his lack of ability to raise a lot of money.

JAISAL NOOR: So Jealous was down in the polls in the primary, and was going up against the establishment candidate, Rushern Baker. Jealous was still able to win in that race. You know, last week we saw dozens of establishment politicians and officials from across the state say they are now, they are behind their candidate, Ben Jealous. Is that going to make a difference?

MARC STEINER: It could. I mean, what will make a difference in this campaign? What will make a difference- the polls have shown a huge growth in the last couple of weeks of support for Ben Jealous. It’s still 52 percent for Larry Hogan, with one poll saying 9 percent undecided. But we don’t know what that really means, because polls can be real, they also can miss a lot.

So what this says to me is with enough grassroots organizing and push by those 50 organizers he says he has, that could affect a lot. He could possibly win the election. But this is going to be very tough for him to do. Just because of the numbers, how far out they are, he has to get lots of progressives, a lot of women, a lot of black folks to the polls to make this work.

JAISAL NOOR: And going back to the issue of donations, the Capitol News Service found that hundreds of donors to former Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley are now giving money to Larry Hogan.

MARC STEINER: I’m not surprised. Look, Larry Hogan represents, for a certain body of people in the state, white, middle-aged, successful businessman, who’s managed this state and can work both sides of the aisle. What it also has meant is that Larry Hogan has been able to take credit for things that weren’t his but the Democrat side, but is so sharp doing it he makes it like he’s done all this. And he has done some, but he also hasn’t done it all. So I think that that, that’s why he’s so far ahead. And also, the O’Malley money represents that body of people in the center of the white voters in Maryland would back somebody like Hogan. I mean, that’s just who they want.

JAISAL NOOR: Talk about the factors that have contributed to Larry Hogan’s success in the polls and his enormous popularity. He’s one of the most popular governors in the entire country.

MARC STEINER: Larry Hogan comes in as the second most popular governor in the United States. Interesting enough, the first most popular governor is in Massachusetts, another Democratic state. So that says a lot. Larry Hogan, look, comes from a very moderate conservative Republican background. His father was that. He is that. And he also runs one of the most sophisticated political operations I have ever seen in the state of Maryland. That’s unbelievable. He started five years before he ran for governor saying I’m not really running for governor, but put up his Facebook page and put up the Owe’Malley page, O-W-E O’Malley. And clearly says, I wasn’t- I was doing that to kind of raise consciousness and push things. But he was running for governor five years ago. Knew he wanted to be governor. I think, at any rate.

And so- and he ran a great campaign. And Brown ran a terrible campaign. He became governor. And since then, his political machine has been on top of it. I mean, they just have spun everything in his favor. So that, plus the fact that he is white, middle-class, businessman who seems to get things done, it really worked in his favor. And then he got cancer. And nobody wants- I don’t wish that on anybody. But he saw that he was tough, he fought it, and he didn’t, didn’t look as if he was using it as a campaign ploy or tool, a political tool, but clearly it came across like that in many ways, because it showed that he had grit.

So you know, things have been falling in his way in many ways. Not that cancer’s- nobody, nobody wants cancer to fall their way. But I’m just saying politically, things have kind of been working out for him in that sense.

JAISAL NOOR: The Real News will continue to cover the 2018 race for Maryland governor. In Baltimore, I’m Jaisal Noor.

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Host, The Marc Steiner Show
Marc Steiner is the host of "The Marc Steiner Show" on TRNN. He is a Peabody Award-winning journalist who has spent his life working on social justice issues. He walked his first picket line at age 13, and at age 16 became the youngest person in Maryland arrested at a civil rights protest during the Freedom Rides through Cambridge. As part of the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968, Marc helped organize poor white communities with the Young Patriots, the white Appalachian counterpart to the Black Panthers. Early in his career he counseled at-risk youth in therapeutic settings and founded a theater program in the Maryland State prison system. He also taught theater for 10 years at the Baltimore School for the Arts. From 1993-2018 Marc's signature “Marc Steiner Show” aired on Baltimore’s public radio airwaves, both WYPR—which Marc co-founded—and Morgan State University’s WEAA.