Bernie Sanders aids Ben Jealous in bid to unseat Larry Hogan
Outgunned in the polls and on the airwaves, Democrat Ben Jealous is getting some star power from Sen. Bernard Sanders and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden to try to get him over the finish line in Maryland governor’s race.
Mr. Jealous and his allies say they can overcome Gov. Larry Hogan’s massive lead in the polls if they can mobilize enough Democrats in a state where Democrats hold a 2-to-1 registration edge over the GOP.
“Let us be honest and clear: If there is a low voter turnout this election in Maryland, Larry Hogan will be re-elected,” Mr. Sanders, Vermont independent, said at an event with Mr. Jealous in Montgomery County this week.
Mr. Biden, meanwhile, recorded a video for Mr. Jealous, calling him “the leader we need during these divisive times.”
“Ben has spent his life bringing people together to get big things done,” Mr. Biden said, pointing to Mr. Jealous’s work in Maryland to repeal the death penalty, legalize same-sex marriage and provide in-state tuition to certain immigrants who live in the U.S. illegally. “Vote Democrat. Vote Ben Jealous for governor.”
Sen. Kamala Harris, California Democrat and potential 2020 presidential contender, appeared in a similar video recently. Mr. Jealous also has gotten boosts from comedian and longtime friend Dave Chappelle, who appeared with him at a recent rally.
Mr. Jealous is going to need to harness some energy and fast if he has designs on defeating Mr. Hogan on Tuesday. The first-term Republican governor has led Mr. Jealous by nearly 20 points in recent polls.
At the rally with Mr. Sanders, which highlighted Mr. Jealous’ support for the senator’s “Medicare for all” government-run health care plan, the crowd was clearly interested in seeing Mr. Sanders, chanting “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!”
“Thank you all very much, but tonight it is Ben! Ben! Ben!” Mr. Sanders said. “That’s the guy.”
The crowd did pick up the chant with Mr. Sanders.
Mr. Jealous, though, has had trouble breaking through to mass audiences.
Lagging in fundraising, he didn’t have a major presence on the airwaves until very recently, and was largely unable to fight back against a million dollar-plus attack ad campaign over the summer from the Republican Governors Association.
Mr. Jealous did raise $1.8 million in the most recent reporting period, but still trailed Mr. Hogan’s $2.4 million raised from Aug. 22 to Oct. 21. The incumbent also had about $3.3 million on hand for the final two weeks of the campaign, and Mr. Jealous had less than $300,000.
And Mr. Biden aside, Mr. Jealous has struggled to find prominent centrist Democrats to campaign for him publicly, said Richard Vatz, a professor of rhetoric and communication at Towson University.
“In fact, there are many Democrats and traditional supporters of Democrats who have announced for Hogan as well as others who have given weak support for Jealous and those who have withheld support, such as Comptroller Peter Franchot,” Mr. Vatz said.
Mr. Hogan would be the first Republican governor to win re-election in Maryland since the 1950s.
Mr. Hogan’s campaign said Mr. Jealous’ reliance on “out-of-state celebrities” to energize his campaign in the closing stretch is indicative of the “paltry” level of support he has from Maryland Democrats.
“Gov. Hogan has received a historic level of support from Maryland Democrats, who appreciate that he’s led in a bipartisan fashion over the last four years,” said Hogan campaign spokesman Scott Sloofman.
Mr. Jealous has long said he’s not running to the left or to the right, but toward the people of the state, and that his liberal proposals like Medicare-for-all and marijuana legalization should be embraced by voters in traditionally blue Maryland.
“I’m not running against Larry Hogan he’s an affable guy,” Mr. Jealous said. “No, I’m running against his record.”
Mr. Hogan has adroitly positioned himself in the state, breaking with President Trump on some big policies and withdrawing the state’s National Guard from participating in the border troop surge this spring to protest the zero-tolerance border policy and separation of immigrant families.
Democrats said voters should demand more.
“Is it enough to say, ‘Oh, I’m not as bad as Trump?’” former Gov. Martin O’Malley said at an event. “Larry Hogan was silent on [Supreme Court Justice Brett M.] Kavanaugh. He sent our own National Guard down to the border to act as little puppet theatric pieces in his politics of fear.”