SEABROOK – Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous thinks education and technology is the path forward for Prince George’s County, and the state.
Jealous, 44, is the second candidate to declare his intent to seek the Democratic nomination. Current county executive Rushern Baker, III, as well as Montgomery County state Sen. Richard Madaleno and tech entrepreneur Alec Ross are also in the running. Jealous is perhaps best known for his role as chief executive officer of the NAACP – he was the youngest person ever appointed to the role – but as he told The Sentinel, his professional experiences are more varied. He believes the skills he gained as a partner at Kapor Capital as well as his time as a community organizer will also help him succeed if elected.
“I have as much or more executive experience as anybody in this race. Fundamentally, the voters want a governor who on the one hand, knows how to pull folks together to get things done in a democracy and on the other hand, knows how to manage and run a large enterprise well. And I’ve shown that I’ve done both,” Jealous said. “Mobilizing voters on a massive scale is the only way to beat Larry Hogan.”
Jealous has already secured an endorsement from Vermont senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, and much of his campaign platform is similar to Sanders’ presidential platform, including support for a high minimum wage and for Obamacare.
Jealous said he is a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act and is committed to keeping its protections in place in Maryland regardless of what happens at the federal level.
“I will ensure that everybody in Maryland has healthcare, no matter what happens in Washington,” he said. “We’re the only state with the federal permission you need to create a healthcare for all system, and I’m committed, as governor, to making sure that happens.”
Education is another top priority for Jealous, who says graduates must be prepared to compete not just against students from other states, but from around the world. Jealous said he was inspired by the partnership between Prince George’s County Public Schools and Prince George’s Community College that allow students to graduate high school with an associate’s degree.
“If we can cram two years of college into high school, we can certainly make it possible for our high school students to complete two years of a four-year trade apprenticeship program before they graduate. If we do that, we’ll keep more of our young people in our schools. It will be more meaningful to them,” he said. “Those trades offer great careers, great sources of income.”
He also sees the talent pool available here in Prince George’s as an asset in attracting more businesses to Maryland, fueling economic growth.
“We can bring thousands of new tech jobs to Prince George’s by leveraging its status as the epicenter of tech inclusion. The biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley are under intense pressure to find sources of greater tech workforce diversity. Prince George’s County has more than 17,000 black computer professionals – computer engineers, computer scientists, computer programmers – more than Santa Clara County,” he said. “I believe we can succeed in attracting expansion campuses from Silicon Valley to Prince George’s.”
But, Jealous said it is important that “every community has the opportunity to participate in building the economy,” and smaller firms should not be forgotten.
“If you look at the wealth in Prince George’s County, and it disproportionately flows from small businesses related to the tech economy. As governor, you can count on me to make sure that credit is more accessible to our fastest-growing, newest small businesses,” Jealous said. “As governor, I’ll be fair to everybody.”
He also pledged his support to the Purple Line light rail project connecting New Carrollton with Bethesda and to the county’s regional medical center, set to break ground this year.
Jealous was also very critical of Hogan, saying he was “a disaster for mass transit,” criticizing him for not doing more to stop illegal guns from entering the state and contributing to the spike in violence, and arguing that the Republican’s popularity is because he “avoids doing anything controversial- frankly, almost anything at all.”
Still, he said Hogan could have a very different style in his second term, with no re-election bid to consider, especially if voters send more Republicans to the state legislature.
“In the brief part of his tenure that’s overlapped with Donald Trump, what do you see? Someone who silently acquiesced to let President Trump install a new EPA chief who is hellbent on destroying the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund. A governor who took millions of our dollars from the general fund not to public schools but to private schools in the form of vouchers,” Jealous said. “That’s the real Larry Hogan.”