By Timothy Dashiell
BALTIMORE— Wes Moore, a best-selling author, Rhodes Scholar and Afghan war veteran who has never held elected office, was chosen Tuesday as the 63rd governor of Maryland and the first African American to hold the state’s highest office.
“What an amazing night, and what an improbable journey.” Moore said. “I am grateful to every one of you for the hard work you put in to make tonight happen.
“We will protect abortion rights and access, and empower women to make decisions about their own reproductive health.”
Moore, who left a nearly $1-million-a-year job in New York City last year to run for governor, defeated Republican nominee Dan Cox.
He is the first Democratic candidate to be elected to the position since Martin O’Malley won reelection in 2010. Moore, whose last job was head of the Robin Hood foundation, succeeds Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
Moore, who officially takes office in January, will look to accomplish an ambitious legislative agenda.
His pledges include providing free pre-kindergarten to all Maryland children, the expungement of criminal records for those convicted for marijuana possession, the acceleration of projects to improve water quality and cut carbon emissions, and raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 by 2023, instead of 2025.
Moore says he will use tax revenue following the legalization of recreational cannabis to fund many of his education and crime initiatives.
Moore also plans to use the state’s reported $2 billion budget surplus to revive defunct state departments and fill many job vacancies within multiple departments. He has already stated his desire to bring back The Governor’s Office for Children, which is currently part of the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth, and Victims Services.
All of this, Moore says, is part of a push to provide support for often forgotten Marylanders who have been ignored and cast away by previous administrations and legislation.
“My plans, my blueprint is not just for people who are coming up in urban Maryland, not a blueprint for people only on the eastern shore. It’s not strictly for those who are upper middle class. This is a blueprint for every single person in the state of Maryland.” Moore said.
Moore must first get his plans approved by the state’s General Assembly.
Del Darryl Barnes, D-Prince George’s, the House Deputy Majority Whip and chairman of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus, said he believes more should be able to get his legislative agenda approved fairly easily.
“I think he’s in a golden position, because we have a Democratic House and Senate.” Barnes said. “We’ll be in a great position to get his agenda through.”
Moore was born in Maryland and spent his childhood in Takoma Park, New York City and Baltimore. He was raised by his mother and grandparents following the death of his father when he was 3-years old.
Moore earned a Rhodes Scholarship and attended the University of Oxford in England. He later volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne, leading soldiers in combat in Afghanistan.
Moore gained celebrity through his best-selling book, “The Other Wes Moore”, which became a New York Times bestseller and was added to Baltimore City Public Schools’ required reading list.
Prior to his campaign, Moore headed Robin Hood, a non-profit organization aimed at funding and supporting efforts to support low income families and communities.
He served briefly on the board of directors at Green Thumb Industries, one of the nation’s largest cannabis companies with a number of retail facilities in Maryland, and held more than $1 million in cannabis stock. His connection presented a conflict of interest because as governor he appoints all the members of the commission that monitors cannabis sales and taxes.
Moore also owns thousands of shares amounting to millions of dollars in dozens of companies across different industries, including pharmaceutical, technology, beauty and retail giants. He has promised to place his financial holdings in a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest..
Moore was able to take an early lead and hold on to win the election, thanks in part to a wildly successful fundraising effort. Early on, Moore outraised his opponent 10 to 1 and held that lead into the final days of the race when he reported more nearly $6 million in campaign funds on hand to just over $500,000 for Cox.
Moore won scores of endorsements and support from a myriad of individuals and organizations, labor organizations, the state teachers union, environmentalists, religious groups and virtually every member of the General Assembly, the state’s legislative body.
He later was endorsed by Vice President Kamala Harris, former President Barack Obama and President Joe Biden, who held a joint appearance with Moore and other Democrats Monday before Election Day.
Moore will join the short list of Black men who served as governor in United States history. Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback was acting governor of Louisiana from 1872 to 1873. Douglas Wilder was elected as governor of Virginia from 1990 to 1994. Deval Patrick served two terms as governor of Massachusetts from 2007 to 2015. David Patterson, was governor of New York from 2008 to 2010 after then Gov. Elliot Spitzer resigned.
Moore’s running mate, Lt. Gov.-elect Aruna Miller, also made history as the first immigrant to be elected to statewide office in Maryland. Miller immigrated from India.
“It really speaks to what the state is looking for, ” Barnes said. “These two are history makers not just because of who they represent, but for the plans they have and the changes they will make for Maryland.”