Former NAACP President Ben Jealous on Monday said he remains confident he will beat Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Nov. 6, even though polls continue to indicate he is trailing him by double digits.
“This race has always been about the voters,” Jealous told the Washington Blade during an interview at a coffee shop near his Silver Spring campaign office. “Not the polls, not the money, but the voters.”
Jealous defeated Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, lawyer Jim Shea, former first lady Michelle Obama policy director Krishanti Vignarajah, state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) and former State Department official Alec Ross in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.
A poll the Washington Post and the University of Maryland released on Oct. 9 found Hogan is ahead of Jealous by a 58-38 percent margin. A survey that Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies conducted between Oct. 1-6 found Hogan is ahead of Jealous by a 54-36 percent margin.
Jealous’ campaign on Aug. 28 announced it raised $1.1 million in July and August, compared to the $2.3 million that Hogan raised during the same period. Jealous’ campaign reported it had $386,000 in cash on hand, compared to the $9.4 million that Hogan’s campaign reported.
Jealous throughout the interview stressed his campaign is counting on increased Democratic voter turnout.
“Our path to victory has always been a simple one: We turn out more than a million Democrats and we win,” he told the Blade.
Jealous played leading role in Md. marriage referendum
Jealous, 45, was president and CEO of the Baltimore-based NAACP from 2008-2013.
His platform includes legalizing and taxing marijuana to fund universal pre-K in Maryland and “Medicare for All” in the state. Jealous has also called for a $15 minimum wage in Maryland and raising teacher pay 29 percent.
Jealous’ parents traveled from Baltimore to D.C. to get married in 1966 because Maryland at the time did not allow interracial marriages. Jealous frequently talked about his parents when he campaigned in support of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law that voters upheld in 2012.
The Baltimore Sun named Jealous as its 2013 Marylander of the Year, in part, because of his efforts in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples in the state. Jealous noted to the Blade that he met with Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin “when it looked like (the issue) might fail at the ballot” and “we put together a joint strategy to win on the ballot.”
“Ben Jealous is a proven leader with the vision and commitment needed to continue moving Maryland forward as a welcoming and inclusive state,” said Griffin in an Oct. 10 statement that announced HRC’s endorsement of Jealous. “As a longtime civil rights champion, Ben is passionately committed to putting people over politics and fighting to expand and protect the civil rights of every individual. HRC is proud to endorse Ben Jealous for governor, and we look forward to working with him to advance LGBTQ equality.”
Hogan, who is a Republican, said before his 2014 election that he would not seek a repeal of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law. Hogan also said extending in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants and other social issues “are really decided” in the state.
Hogan in May signed into law a bill that bans so-called conversion therapy to minors. Hogan in 2015 allowed two measures — one that allows trans Marylanders to change their name and gender on their birth certificates without having undergone sex reassignment surgery and another that ensures lesbian couples have equal access to fertility treatments — to take effect without his signature.
“Larry Hogan steadily avoided taking on the past civil rights victories and at the same time he has shown a real willingness to attack immigrant communities,” Jealous told the Blade.
Jealous specifically criticized Hogan for allowing Anne Arundel, Frederick and Harford Counties to enter into 287(g) agreements with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that critics contend allow local law enforcement to “terrorize” immigrants. Jealous also noted Hogan in 2015 asked the Obama administration not to resettle Syrian refugees in Maryland.
“I’m committed to ensuring that we live up to being the birthplace of Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Barbara Mikulski and Thurgood Marshall and that we maintain our tradition of being a state that protects vulnerable communities,” he said, noting Maryland was established as a sanctuary for Catholics who were fleeing persecution in Europe.
Md. ‘deserves a leader who is willing to lead’
Jealous also criticized Hogan over his position toward the nomination of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who grew up in Bethesda.
Hogan last month urged the U.S. Senate to delay Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote until it conducted an investigation into sexual assault allegations against him.
Hogan declined to direct the Maryland State Police to investigate Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party in Montgomery County in the early 1980s when he was a student at Georgetown Preparatory School. The Washington Post on Oct. 5 reported Hogan told the Baltimore Sun editorial board that he didn’t “feel educated enough” on whether Kavanaugh should be confirmed.
Jealous pointed out to the Blade that he is among the 1,600 men who expressed their support for Ford and for Anita Hill, who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment before his 1991 confirmation, in a full-page ad the New York Times published on Sept. 26.
“When I was 18, I was qualified enough to have an opinion on Clarence Thomas,” said Jealous.
He reiterated his criticism of Hogan over his position toward Kavanaugh.
“That’s not leading, being quiet, following the crowd, saying you object after your point to have an actual impact has passed,” said Jealous. “That’s not leadership. Maryland deserves a leader who is willing to lead.”
Trump ‘more than qualified for impeachment’
Jealous told the Blade that President Trump is “more than qualified for impeachment.” He also said he feels Hogan has not done enough to challenge the White House.
“Larry Hogan has said that if he were to have a meeting with Donald Trump he’d tell him to stop tweeting,” said Jealous. “The problem with Donald Trump is not his Twitter account. The problem is the policies and the statements he makes.”
Jealous told the Blade that “Trump and the GOP taking over the U.S. Supreme Court” with Kavanaugh and Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch should prompt Marylanders to “pay attention to the fact” the state’s next governor will appoint five judges to the state’s Court of Appeals. He also said Hogan’s second term would mirror that of one of his mentors, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
“Larry Hogan is trying his best to be the second coming of Chris Christie,” said Jealous.
Jealous defends comedian Dave Chappelle
Comedian Dave Chappelle is among Jealous’ more prominent supporters.
Chappelle is Jealous’ godbrother and the two have known each other for most of their lives.
Jealous told the Blade he is “proud to have his endorsement.” He said in response to questions about whether Chappelle is homophobic or transphobic that his “comedy is not my politics” and “his comedy’s not his politics.”
Jealous also pointed out Chappelle was part of an improv group at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Northwest D.C. that raised awareness of HIV/AIDS.
“He’s been a good ally of multiple communities, including the LGBT community from a very early age,” said Jealous. “His comedy is not my politics and his comedy is not even his politics.”