Can a long-shot candidate win the Democratic nomination for governor?
Five of them are hoping to pull an upset over more well-known candidates such as Comptroller Peter Franchot, former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, and former state Attorney General Doug Gansler.
The long shots are: Baltimore tech entrepreneur and economist Mike Rosenbaum, 49, former U.S. Secretary of Education John King Jr., 46, former non-profit executive Jon Baron, 58, former Obama administration official Ashwani Jain, 31, and retired Army officer and author Wes Moore, 43.
MarylandReporter.com spoke with Rosenbaum, King, Baron, and Jain about their respective candidacies and the challenges they face. Moore’s campaign did not respond to requests for an interview by the deadline for this story.
“There is no one else in this race who is in a position to be able to build the economy, to the create the jobs and pathways into jobs, and that is what the next governor is going to have to focus on,” Rosenbaum said.
He added: “In the primary of June 2022 the thing that Marylanders are going to be focused on is: Who can build the economy that we need to build? And there is no one else in this race, either a big name or small name, who has actually had the experience of taking on these systems and changing them successfully.”
John King Jr.
King, for his part, said he has beaten the odds throughout his entire life. The former cabinet official relayed that both of his parents died when he was young and that later he was expelled from his high school.
“The thing that saved me was teachers. Public school teachers who made school a place that was safe and compelling and engaging. And as I got in trouble in high school, teachers and a school counselor gave me a second chance and believed in me even when I did not believe in myself.”
King said the key to electoral success lies in telling his story to voters, sharing his ideas, and outworking the other candidates in the race.
“I started a progressive advocacy organization that has worked on a range of issues such as education, economic development, social safety net issues, and the environment. I have built a lot of relationships around the state and have networked with folks who are engaged in those issues. And that will help create a strong foundation…We have good funding raising momentum and we will have the resources necessary to get our message out.”
But King is not the only candidate with a compelling story.
Jain, the son of Indian immigrants, has beaten cancer. And, if elected, he would be both the first millennial governor in the nation and the first person of color to occupy Maryland’s highest office.
“I have gone from a Title I elementary school to later earn two Bachelors and one Masters degree. I have had experience working in the public sector, the private sector, as well as nonprofit sectors. And I got to work with President Obama and then-Vice President Biden in their White House and also two federal agencies.”
Jain said he believes he is uniquely suited to earn the trust of Democratic voters.
“I can speak to this particular moment in time. I do believe I am leading on issues. I think I can actually expand the electorate and excite the base.”
Jain said that his campaign is bolstered by the participation of more than 260 “active volunteers” and that he expects that number to grow over the next year.
Baron, an appointee of both Democratic and Republican presidents, said that he is the only candidate in the race who has actually been successful in working to bring about concrete policy changes.
“What I offer that is different is a message. I have a compelling reason why I should be governor and a demonstrated track record of success in advancing major policy reforms. Many of my opponents are good people. But a number of them have run for governor before and they have been in politics for a long time.”
He added: “All candidates talk about the need to improve education and earnings and health care and reduce racial equity gaps, and so on. But what I offer is knowledge and experience about how to actually achieve those goals in the real world.”
Both the Democratic and Republican primaries are scheduled to take place on June 28, 2022.
The Republican candidates running for governor are state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz and attorney and former state delegate Robin Ficker.
Popular incumbent GOP Gov. Larry Hogan is term-limited and cannot run again.
Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin in Maryland.