Blue Wave Falls Short in Maryland’s Governor’s Race

After Larry Hogan defeated Ben Jealous for Maryland Governor, we spoke to legislators Mary Washington and Kris Burnett, economist Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, and activist Richard Elliot about what Jealous’ loss means for Maryland’s progressive movement

Blue Wave Falls Short in Maryland's Governor's Race

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Story Transcript

LARRY HOGAN: And tonight, in this deep blue state, in this blue year, with a blue wave, it turns out I can surf, and we had a purple surfboard.

JAISAL NOOR: The Democrats’ blue wave fell short in the Maryland’s governor’s race, where Larry Hogan was reelected by a 14-point margin.

LARRY HOGAN: Hundreds of thousands of Democrats reaffirmed the wisdom of John F. Kennedy, who said sometimes party loyalty demands too much.

JAISAL NOOR: Hogan spent heavily on polling, and carefully avoided divisive issues.

LARRY HOGAN: And to all those Democrats and independents who crossed over and cast their votes for me- I see some of them out there tonight-

JAISAL NOOR: He carefully rhetorically distanced himself from President Donald Trump, and even embraced some liberal causes.

LARRY HOGAN: I assure you that I will continue to be a governor for all Marylanders.

JAISAL NOOR: The day after the election, Hogan blamed Trump for the defeat of Republican efforts to end Democrats’ veto-proof majority in the state Senate and the defeat of many downballot candidates backed by Hogan.

LARRY HOGAN: We had President Trump say the elections will be about him, even though he’s not on the ballot in Maryland. That’s exactly what happened, with a repudiation of a president who lost this state by 30 points.

JAISAL NOOR: Democratic nominee former NAACP CEO Ben Jealous beat the establishment pick in the primary and ran on a progressive platform.

BEN JEALOUS: The pundits nationally will talk about how we could have made history tonight. But I want all of you to understand that we’ve already made history by proving that you can win the Democratic nomination for governor in Maryland without taking a dime from a corporation.

JAISAL NOOR: Jealous’ campaign was outfundraised by a wide margin, and lacked the slick look of the well-oiled Hogan machine. And he wasn’t backed by his own party in a meaningful way. But the positions he embraced were backed by a majority of Maryland voters, polls showed. Jealous argued his campaign pushed Hogan to the left.

BEN JEALOUS: When we started this campaign, the Governor intended to bring fracking to our state. And we beat that back, too. When we started this campaign they laughed at the idea of free community college. And it’s already begun to appear in our state.

JAISAL NOOR: Hogan’s campaign took credit for passing legislation he once opposed, like family sick leave, or that was passed by Democrats, like the education lockbox for casino proceeds. Jealous supporter and Baltimore councilman Kris Burnett says Hogan was a master at controlling the narrative.

KRIS BURNETT: But he’s really good at shifting the blame. And so I’ll say, you know, when it comes to schools he’s continued to shift the blame to Central Office. When it comes to violence he shifts the blame to the mayor and the City Council. Not that we don’t bear any responsibility; of course we do. I mean, I’m working hard every day in my district, and I know my colleagues are, to make our city safer. But at the end of the day we can do more with more resources. I mean, our schools are vastly underfunded. They have been for the last four years.

JAISAL NOOR: Another challenge Jealous faced was a lack of enthusiasm for Democrats that had had a history of failing to deliver on campaign promises. For example, Baltimore’s Democratic mayor campaigned on a $15 minimum wage, but vetoed the legislation once in office.

KRIS BURNETT: The reality is if we all do better we all do better. And when people can afford their rent, they can afford to eat, when they can afford to go back to school and better themselves, we all win.

JAISAL NOOR: 2018 wasn’t a wash for Maryland progressives. In the primary, Mary Washington pulled off a stunning upset of a longtime incumbent state senator.

MARY WASHINGTON: That’s in part why I really connected with Ben Jealous’ campaign. He was coming from the outside, coming from a person that didn’t have the support of the establishment.

JAISAL NOOR: Hogan ran on lowering taxes and reducing regulations while the Republican Governors Association poured millions into attack ads against Jealous, saying his platform would bankrupt the state. Washington says progressives need to do more to win over moderate voters.

MARY WASHINGTON: That means that our party, and those of us who identify as progressive, or want to make sure that we have quality healthcare, that we want public education that’s well-funded, that we want to make sure that we have investments in transportation, that we end racial inequities, that we make sure that that women are protected in their homes and in their jobs, that we need to continue to speak that message and talk to people every single day. And I see that that is about communicating, not as a referendum on those values, but on how do we reach those values to people, and make people understand that these are their issues, as well?

JAISAL NOOR: Throughout the campaign Hogan supporters argued that progress was being made in Maryland.

DEDRICK ASANTE-MUHAMMAD: The response is that to me the status quo isn’t acceptable. I mean, you know, the ridiculously high murder rate we have in the largest city in Maryland; the continued kind of ongoing inequality. Like, Maryland should be- is a high-income state, one of the places that has the greatest equity in the country, and could be a model for that.

As a resident of Maryland I’ve seen how Hogan’s idea of a developing economy seems to leave those who are economically marginalized; it leaves them to continue to be marginalized.

JAISAL NOOR: Activist Richard Elliot argues the media often focused on personality rather than policies in the governor’s race.

RICHARD ELLIOT: They used such things to describe him as popular, awesome, a man of the people, a guy you can get a drink with. The kind of ways they described George W. Bush, when they don’t analyze his policies or his politics, but just his personality. People should not ever vote or cover a candidate based on their personality alone.

JAISAL NOOR: Progressives will be facing many challenges in the upcoming years.

KRIS BURNETT: I think the biggest thing for me is preparing for the next session of school funding, that we’re up to change the school funding formula. We’re looking forward to the Kirwan Commission’s report and recommendations. We’ve got to fight like hell. You know, I’ve already started gearing up in my district and pushing this narrative that we really have to account for things like concentrated poverty and a need for early childhood education to be fully funded.

Redistricting through the census, that’s going to be a big issue in 2020 that I think we’ll see some varying outcomes of that, regardless. I mean, hopefully it’s a nonpartisan redistricting that occurs, but you know, it hasn’t really been the case in Maryland regardless of who’s been in charge, and we’ve seen that across the state.

Another big issue that we’re going to be faced with moving forward is judges. I mean, criminal justice reform. And I’ve already heard from some folks who have seen some of the early lists that Governor Hogan has put together. And I’m deeply concerned that these folks will really lean towards mass incarceration as the solution towards violence reduction in Baltimore City and across the state of Maryland. That’s a big problem.

JAISAL NOOR: For more analysis of the election and what it means for Maryland, go to TheRealNews.com.

From Baltimore, this is Jaisal Noor.