Ben Jealous

Heading into a tough fight over the governorship in Maryland, Democrats have thrown support by a former NAACP leader Ben Jealous, who is running on a progressive vision.

Ben Jealous won the Maryland gubernatorial primary with 173,749 votes, just shy of 40 percent of the votes cast.

Jealous is advocating for a popular progressive litmus test – single-payer healthcare – but perhaps most importantly he calls for sweeping change of the criminal justice system in Maryland.

Baltimore police have made millions abusing civil asset forfeiture, they have been trained to plant guns on people they kill and and a police commander in the city is being investigated for robbing a police-community relations nonprofit. Jealous has taken aim at that corruption.

“His proposals reflect a sophisticated understanding of the problems the state faces and the choices its leaders will have to make in the years ahead,” the Baltimore Sun praised Jealous when they endorsed him. “It’s not just that the former NAACP president and CEO has the stature or political skills to run a competitive campaign against the popular and extremely well funded Republican incumbent (though he does), it’s that he presents the strongest contrast to the governor in his vision for the state.”

Jealous will face a difficult run against Larry Hogan, the incumbent Republican governor who has a lot of crossover appeal to Democrats thanks in no small part to the reassuring role he played during the riots over the death of Freddie Gray while he was in police custody.

But Jealous has felt that police corruption first-hand. Jealous and comedian Dave Chappelle told a crowd at Morgan State University about an encounter they had with police, where Chappelle was carrying marijuana. One of the officers recognized Chappelle from Def Comedy Jam, and that defused tension. But for Jealous, this wasn’t about a friend in danger of a minor drug offense, this was about the fear that African Americans deal with daily.

“I was terrified at that moment because we were two black men in America with a dime bag,” Jealous said. “We could have been in jail, and if something went wrong in that jail we could have still been in prison and you wouldn’t know who he was or me, we would have just been inmate XXXX.”

While Jealous has national progressive support and has the backing of Bernie Sanders, it could be his real, emotional understanding of the crises in Baltimore that mark how voters relate with him in November.

 

 

Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.

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