Ben Jealous is betting that a progressive Democrat can unseat blue state Maryland’s Republican governor Larry Hogan, despite the fact that Hogan remains exceedingly popular.
“Already, we are seeing signs, early signs, that we will be successful, [and] not just in the primary, in unifying Democrats, and pulling folks together,” Jealous said in an interview on Thursday at a civic center in Silver Spring after Vermont Senator Sanders delivered a speech endorsing him.
The former head of the NAACP vying for the Democratic nomination in the Maryland governor’s race is running on a Sanders-style agenda, including support for single-payer health-care, raising the minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour, and debt-free community and four-year public college.
The race will test the viability of a progressive platform in a diverse and heavily Democratic state that has a soft spot for centrist Democrats. It will also test the power of Sanders to play Democratic Party kingmaker, and whether the senator has become more influential with Democratic voters in Maryland since his presidential primary run, where he lost to Hillary Clinton.
Despite his popularity on the left, Sanders’s endorsements in the post-2016 election landscape haven’t translated into many tangible victories so far. The senator endorsed Rob Quist in the special election for Montana’s house seat, Tom Perriello in the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary, and Keith Ellison in the race for Democratic National Committee Chair. Every candidate lost. Republicans haven’t let that go unnoticed: “Bernie Sanders’ record of endorsing losers doesn’t bode well for Ben Jealous,” reads the title of a post on the Republican Governors Association website.