“Economies of scale matter. Vermont’s simply too small,” Jealous says when I ask him how his single-payer plan will work. “Vermont’s the size of Baltimore. Maryland’s 10 times larger.” Asked what form that state-level plan will take, Jealous demurs. “It’s going to work the way it does in Canada and France and England and every other Western nation,” he said, lumping together a widely varied set of systems.
Jealous lacks for experience in elected office, but he has drawn praise for his leadership of the NAACP, where he organized around rights for undocumented immigrants, abolishing the death penalty, and voting rights, and persuaded the organization’s board to fully endorse marriage rights for same-sex couples.
“He was regarded as an effective leader at the NAACP,” said Cornel William Brooks, Jealous’s successor as chairman and CEO. “He came and brought a lot of money into the digital upgrade [of the organization], and added a youthful face to the work of the NAACP.”
But his tenure was not without controversy. In 2010, Jealous called for the firing of Shirley Sherrod, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official who was the focus of a viral video released by Breitbart in which she told a story about discriminating against a white farmer. Once the full video was released, it became clear that the point of Sherrod’s story was the exact opposite of what Breitbart had inferred.
“When you make a mistake, you admit it as quickly as possible,” Jealous said. “And you do everything you can to make it right.” Jealous says that he and Sherrod have since reconciled, and that she’s supporting his campaign. “Shirley and I are a couple of organizers who are both slow to anger and quick to forgive. And I’m grateful that she forgave me, and I’m honored to have her support for this race.” Sherrod confirmed that she and Jealous had reconciled.
After leaving the NAACP, Jealous became a partner at Kapor Capital, an investment firm that provides funding for tech startups that serve low-income and minority communities. Its portfolio includes companies like Pigeonly, which makes an app that helps families with loved ones in prison avoid the outrageously high cost of phone calls, and LendUp, which gives people a way to borrow money without relying on predatory lenders.
“He’s an incredibly quick study,” said Mitchell Kapor, the firm’s founder. “He has the leadership experience, he had the organizational experience, he knows the issues. What he hadn’t done previously is invest in for-profit startups.” His role as an investor for Kapor has also provided Jealous with one of his favorite lines, that Republicans will “call me a socialist, but I’m a venture capitalist.”
If Jealous wins, his administration will be the first experiment in merging the Democratic Party’s warring impulses—socially conscious capitalism and social democracy. While Hogan’s approval numbers are high now, his 2014 election, when Hogan defeated then-Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown by 66,000 votes, was a close race.