July 17, 2017 at 12:42 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Madaleno formally announces run for Md. governor

Gay state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) attends last month’s Baltimore Pride. He formally announced he is running for governor on July 17, 2017. (Washington Blade photo by Chris Jennings)

Maryland state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) on Monday formally announced his candidacy for governor.

“I’m running for governor and I’m going to win,” said Madaleno during his announcement speech that he made at Universities at Shady Grove in North Potomac.

Madaleno, 52, has represented the 18th Senate District since 2007. He became the first openly gay person elected to the Maryland General Assembly in 2002.

Madaleno is among the lawmakers and advocates who led efforts to secure passage of the state’s same-sex marriage bill then-Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law in 2012. The Montgomery County Democrat in 2014 introduced a transgender rights measure that took effect later in the year.

Madaleno in 2014 defeated Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer in the Democratic primary for his state Senate seat. Madaleno was among those who considered running for then-Congressman Chris Van Hollen’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives after then-U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) announced her retirement in 2015.

Madaleno on Monday described himself as a “proud husband and a loving father.” Marriage rights for same-sex couples are among the issues he highlighted during his announcement speech.

“I will never back down on civil rights, on LGBTQ rights, on workers’ rights, on women’s rights, on voting rights,” said Madaleno. “Our rights cannot and will not be sacrificed with Rich Madaleno as governor.”

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, former NCAAP President Ben Jealous and former State Department official Alec Ross are among the Democrats who are also running to succeed current Gov. Larry Hogan.

“I am the only Democrat who can take on and beat Larry Hogan next November,” said Madaleno. “I will win because there is no other candidate in this, including the incumbent, who brings my track record of leadership and real results for the people of Maryland.”

Madaleno accused Hogan, a Republican, of refusing “to hold Donald Trump accountable for the damage being done to our state and to our country.”

“I will,” added Madaleno.

Beyer is among those who applauded Madaleno after his announcement.

“I’m very impressed with Rich’s initiative and willingness to go out against an incumbent governor with a 65 percent approval rating,” Beyer told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview. “It’s no small thing to do that.”

Beyer also noted Madaleno would become the first openly gay man elected governor in the U.S. if he beat Hogan in the 2018 general election.

“Rich is an outstanding state senator and champion for LGBTQ equality in Maryland, so we are excited to see him enter the race,” said Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute President Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, noting bisexual Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in 2016 became the first openly LGBT person elected governor. “Nationwide, just one openly LGBTQ person has ever been elected governor — but we will have several opportunities to increase that number in 2018. Rich is running a smart, values-driven campaign, and we look forward to following his race.”

Mark Procopio, executive director of FreeState Justice, a statewide LGBT advocacy organization, on Monday issued a short statement about Madaleno’s announcement.

“We expect that Sen. Madaleno and others running for governor will keep the protection of LGBTQ Marylanders at the forefront of this election,” Procopio told the Blade.

Bruce DePuyt, a former News Channel 8 talk show host who has covered the General Assembly since 1990, told the Blade that Madaleno “really has something to run on” in terms of his record on LGBT rights and other progressive issues.

“Rich’s widely regarded as one of the smartest people in Annapolis,” said DePuyt. “He’s really bright and he’s also a hero to progressive voters and to progressive activists.”

DePuyt said one of Madaleno’s challenges is he remains largely unknown outside of Annapolis and Montgomery County.

“It’s going to take a lot of money and a lot of work to get his name out there,” DePuyt told the Blade.

The Blade has reached out to Madaleno for an interview.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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