Former Obama education secretary forms political group

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A former U.S. education secretary and potential candidate for governor of Maryland in 2022 announced a new political group in the state on Monday that includes other alumni of former President Barack Obama’s administration.

John King, Jr., who served as Obama’s education secretary in the last year of his presidency, said Strong Future Maryland will focus on helping Maryland recover from the coronavirus pandemic and battling systemic racism.

King also said the group will focus on advancing action to fight climate change.

“This effort is really one to try to put some additional wind in the sail of progressive policy change in the legislature,” King, who lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, said in an interview Monday.

King said he has raised more than $1 million to fund the organization.

Strong Future Maryland will include other former officials in the Obama administration, including Denis McDonough, who was the former president’s chief of staff, and Cecilia Munoz, Obama’s former domestic policy adviser.

Democrats control the Maryland General Assembly. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is term-limited, so the governor’s office will be open in 2022.

While King said the new organization’s aims were on advancing long-term goals beyond a single election, he said it’s fair to say he’s not ruling out a gubernatorial bid.

“It’s really about long-term structural change that will create a more just, more prosperous, more sustainable future,” King said. “And that said, I am always thinking about how I can contribute back, and in this moment this work to build Strong Future Maryland is the best way to contribute.”

King pointed to Hogan’s veto this year of a comprehensive K-12 education measure as an example of a need for change in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1.

“Certainly there are issues where because of the governor we are stalled at the moment,” King said, also noting the governor’s veto of a bill to settle a long-standing federal lawsuit involving the state’s historically Black colleges.

King said he believes both vetoes should be overridden by the General Assembly in the next legislative session.

King is now president and CEO of The Education Trust, a national nonprofit organization that seeks to identify and close opportunity and achievement gaps.