Bernie Sanders Endorses Ben Jealous for Maryland Governor in Silver Spring

Former presidential candidate declared Jealous has 'the radical idea that maybe, just maybe government should represent all of the people and not just the 1 percent'


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Ben Jealous stands at the podium after being endorsed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in Silver Spring Thursday morning

Andrew Metcalf

Updated - 3:25 p.m. - It was hot outside Thursday morning, but the energy inside the Silver Spring Civic Center was even hotter as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous stood with the "Bern" at his side.

More than 500 people came to the center to loudly cheer as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed Jealous in the 2018 Maryland governor's race.

The endorsement from the most prominent leader of the country’s progressive movement seems likely to energize support for Jealous, who is facing several contenders in the Democratic primary in June. The winner will take on Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in the November 2018 general election.

“Ben is going to stand with the working people of this state—black, Latino, Asian-American, Native American—he’s going to stand with women, he’s going to stand with the gay community and he’s going to do what the president of the United States does not and he is going to bring people into government from all walks of life, not just billionaires,” Sanders said.

Jealous, 44, is a former director of the NAACP who has never held elected office. He’s facing off against seasoned elected officials such as state Sen. Rich Madaleno and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, who have both announced plans to run for the Democratic nomination. Other candidates who may enter the race include Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and U.S Rep. John Delaney. Baltimore attorney James Shea and entrepreneur Alec Ross are also running for the opportunity to challenge Hogan.

The other Democratic challengers weren’t mentioned at the event. Instead Sanders, Jealous and other speakers focused on the national progressive policies Jealous is championing in his campaign—a $15 minimum wage, reforming the criminal justice system, rebuilding transportation infrastructure, creating a single-payer healthcare system and protecting the environment.

Jealous took the stage to ringing applause and cheers. He delivered a soaring, nine-minute address that resembled a Barack Obama campaign speech.

“We are building a movement on Trump’s doorstep to get rid of Trump’s doorman,” Jealous said, referring to Hogan.

He relayed his campaign travels, including a stop in Silver Spring where he talked to a man about his relative who died from a lack of access to health care and a trip to Talbot County where a young girl told him about three classmates who “she buried this year because they were addicted to opioids.”

“I’ve been an organizer my entire life,” Jealous said. “This room is full of organizers. The first thing you’re taught is you don’t elect politicians to make change happen. You elect politicians to make it a little easier for you to make change happen.

“And let me be very clear, I am asking you to put me into the governor’s office so it will be easier for us to govern,” Jealous said.

Jealous greets audience members in the crowd following his speech. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

The endorsement from Sanders wasn’t unexpected—Jealous served as a surrogate in Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign after he endorsed the Vermont senator. Jealous also served on the board of Our Revolution, the political group founded in the wake of Sanders’ campaign that aims to support new progressive leaders and respond to the needs of working families. The group also endorsed Jealous on Thursday.

“We need the type of leaders who are willing to put something on the line for the people,” Nina Turner, president of Our Revolution, said at the event. “We need the type of leaders who when they get into office … actually do what they say they will do on behalf of the people.”

After the event, Hogan's spokeswoman Amelia Chassé responded by pointing out that Hogan didn't vote for Trump. The governor wrote in his father's name for president instead.

"If this is the best argument they've got it's laughably weak," Chassé wrote in an email. "Out-of-state politicians repeating Washington, D.C., talking points simply won't pass the smell test with Marylanders who overwhelmingly approve of the governor's common sense, bipartisan policies that are changing Maryland for the better."

On hand for the event Thursday was Elizabeth Moses, 38, of Columbia, who brought along her 10-year-old son. She said she supported Sanders in the presidential campaign and would likely support Jealous. She noted that although her son wasn’t “all that interested,” she felt it was important to start bringing him to political events and teach him about the Democratic process.

Franklin Anderson, 25, of Hyattsville, said he hadn’t decided who he’ll support for governor, but was leaning toward Jealous because of his “commitment to progressive policies and his stance on social issues.”

Standing nearby were Frank Pierce, 63, and his wife, Yvanny Perry, 52, of Hillandale.

“I’ve been a Sanders supporter for a long time,” Pierce said. “I’m for the complete progressive agenda of raising the minimum wage, investing in sustainable energy and disengaging from the Middle East.”

Perry said Jealous is “extremely accomplished” and credited his organizing abilities.

“The NAACP just expanded, just multiplied during his tenure with the NAACP,” Perry said. “It’s incredible what he’s done.”

Jealous served as NAACP president from 2008 to 2013. In Maryland, he worked on legislative initiatives to end the death penalty and pass the Dream Act while he was with the association. The law grants in-state tuition to undocumented college students.

As he stepped down from the stage Thursday, Jealous immersed himself into the crowd, shaking hands and signing “Jealous for Governor” campaign signs. At one point a man in the crowd told Jealous he was running for office in Prince George’s County and Jealous responded, “Text me, I’ll be in touch.”

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