All seven Democratic candidates running for Governor of Maryland in 2018 gathered to speak at the Greater Baltimore Democratic Gubernatorial Forum on Saturday, Feb. 24 at the Baltimore War Memorial.
The candidates are: Baltimore lawyer Jim Shea; former president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Ben Jealous; Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz; former policy director for Michelle Obama Krishanti Vignarajah; Maryland State Senator Richard Madaleno; Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker; and former Senior Advisor for Innovation to Hillary Clinton Alec Ross.
Two of these candidates have connections to Hopkins. Kamenetz is an alumnus from the class of 1979, and Ross served as a Distinguished Senior Fellow focusing on emerging technologies at Hopkins from November 2015 to December 2017.
During the forum, the candidates shared their platforms on a number of issues. Many of the candidates stressed the importance of defeating the current governor of Maryland, Republican Larry Hogan.
Shea criticized Hogan’s leadership in his opening statement.
“I have no quarrel with the people who are on stage with me today. My quarrel is with Larry Hogan,” he said.
He urged fellow candidates and the audience to work together to defeat Hogan.
“All around the state, people tell me he hasn’t done that much harm. I disagree,” he said. “I say let’s vote Larry Hogan out of office in November so that he doesn’t do much more significant harm.”
Madaleno told the audience that in a transportation plan, Hogan actually left Baltimore City off of the map of Maryland.
Madaleno believes that this illustrates how little Hogan cares about the City.
“We need a governor that will recognize that Maryland will only succeed when Baltimore City succeeds,” he said.
Kamenetz also criticized the Hogan administration for how it has cut funds in the education system.
“Larry Hogan has decimated our education system in the state of Maryland,” he said. “In his first two years, he cut $110 million out of the education budget. That was money that was going to be used for special ed teachers and [English for Speakers of Other Languages] teachers. He had criticized our teachers and dismissed them as ‘union thugs.’”
Ross was also frustrated with Hogan’s treatment of the Maryland education system.
“There’s so many things to disagree with Larry Hogan about, but first and foremost it really does come down to public education,” he said. “Maryland has actually never had an education governor, a governor who said that ‘my number one or two priority is education.’ That’s why I’m running.”
Jealous critiqued Hogan’s attitudes towards addressing drug abuse in the U.S. In recent years, the opioid crisis has affected thousands in Baltimore.
“He talks a good game about the opioid epidemic, but he shifts money toward law enforcement,” he said. “Now he’s come out in favor of returning to ‘truth and sentencing,’ a failed program that’s crazy expensive... We have bipartisan consensus to end the war on drugs, to end mass incarceration. States like Georgia and Texas have moved faster than Maryland.”
Vignarajah was most frustrated with the way Hogan has interacted with the federal government. She contrasted Hogan’s actions with those of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.
“At a time when the president continues to surprise us — and I mean that unfortunately in the most awful way — we have failed to see Governor Hogan stand up and represent all Marylanders,” she said. “What we’ve seen instead is a governor who continues to fake left and move right while even moderate Republican governors like Governor [Charlie] Baker stand up against the administration.”
Gubernatorial candidate Rushern Baker felt that Hogan’s desire to keep his poll numbers high has been his greatest weakness.
“He’s the first governor in almost 60 years that doesn’t propose or oppose legislation in Annapolis,” he said. “He’s the first governor that doesn’t let his cabinet officials testify in Annapolis. Every decision he makes is based on a poll... He’s destroying our government by doing nothing.”
Students who attended the event like senior Jordan Britton thought that the event was a good introduction to the candidates.
“I didn’t really know much about each individual candidate, but walking away Alec Ross and Krish Vignarajah both stood out to me,” he said.
Montgomery County resident Alison Lepard felt that the event did a good job of appealing to Baltimore residents specifically.
“The questions were very Baltimore-oriented, and several of the candidates have Baltimore ties,” she said. “They did an excellent job spelling out why Hogan is not good for Baltimore and why they would be better both for Maryland and for Baltimore specifically.”
Ross, who had spent time on the Homewood campus as Distinguished Visiting Fellow, had a message for Hopkins students in particular.
“You have to register,” he said. “If you don’t like what’s happening in the country, register to vote and take action locally. We can’t retake our country until we retake our communities. I know school is hard. Suck it up, register and vote.”