Ben Jealous has a theory of the 2018 Maryland gubernatorial election: that an enthusiastically progressive candidate can defeat the state’s popular Republican governor, Larry Hogan. After his victory in Tuesday night’s Democratic primary, Jealous will get to put that theory to the test.
“If someone voted for Hogan last time, I’m not trying to convince them to do different this time. If somebody didn’t vote last time, I’m focused on them and getting them to turn out,” Jealous told me in an interview in early June. “And we will have much higher voter turnout, and he will lose. It’s just that simple.”
Jealous pulled out a stronger-than-expected victory on Tuesday, on a night in which progressive candidates in several states edged out more conservative or establishment challengers. In a field with nine contenders, Jealous, a former NAACP chief who has never held elected office, won 40 percent of the vote. He defeated his closest opponent, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, by 10 points, suggesting a level of enthusiasm that wasn’t picked up in public polls ahead of the election.
“Looks like he picked up a ton of the undecided vote—remember polls had 30-plus percent undecided two weeks ago,” said Mileah Kromer, the director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College in Maryland. “Not surprising, if you look at the money he received from outside sources and the big names who came and stumped for him in the Dem strongholds. He had the resources and campaign organization to put it away in the waning days.”