Black candidates look to make history, and make political returns, in Maryland primary elections

TheGrio is closely watching the Maryland gubernatorial and attorney general contests and the race for the 4th Congressional District, where former congresswoman Donna Edwards is looking to win back her old seat.

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There are a number of important primary contests this upcoming election Tuesday. Two races theGrio is closely watching are in Maryland, where Democratic voters will determine their nominees for governor and U.S. Congress.

For the gubernatorial race, there are ten candidates on the ballot for the state’s top executive seat. Tom Perez, a former Obama administration U.S. labor secretary and former chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), is making his bid for the top spot. Another Obama appointee, John King Jr., who served as education secretary, is also vying to become governor. 

John King, former State Superintendent in New York, speaks as President Barack Obama looks on during an event to annonce that he will replace education Secretary Arne Duncan in December in the State Dining Room of the White House October 2, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/WHITE HOUSE POOL (ISP POOL IMAGES)/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, another name that has emerged in the race is Wes Moore. The 43-year-old is a Rhodes scholar, retired Army captain – and just so happens to be a friend of Oprah Winfrey. Until last year, Moore served as CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, a nonprofit organization aimed at reducing poverty in New York City. Moore and King battling to become the first Black governor of the nation’s 7th state.  

AFRO News, the Black heritage paper of record for Baltimore City and the state of Maryland, founded in 1892, has endorsed Moore for governor. Frances Murphy Draper, CEO and publisher of AFRO News, told theGrio she endorsed Moore because of his military background, education and work directly leading efforts to end poverty nationally through the Robin Hood Foundation. 

Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Wes Moore, speaks during a press conference with House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) at Bowie State University in Bowie, Md. on April 29, 2022. (Photo by Eric Lee for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

“Robin Hood was arguably the largest anti-poverty organization in the country, maybe in the world,” noted Draper. “When you look at his leadership there and his care and compassion for people and his ability to navigate policy, I think why not Wes Moore?”

Draper said Maryland needs a “fresh” voice and face. Moore, she said, “can really get that job done.” 

Speaking to theGrio, Moore said part of his campaign’s focus is addressing public safety in Baltimore, Maryland’s largest population of Black residents. “You cannot have a thriving Maryland if you do not have a growing and safe Baltimore,” said Moore. 

If elected, Moore’s top priorities as governor would be the economy, drilling down on wealth and wages, job growth, homeownership, closing the wealth gap, and cutting into crime. What’s more, he is committed to creating a more diverse gubernatorial staff and administration. 

Poverty and blight in Baltimore has been under a magnifying glass, particularly after the wrongful police death of Freddie Gray in 2015. Gray, a 25-year-old Black man from West Baltimore, died in the back of a police van. Years later, the combination of news headlines of the tragic death and stories of poverty in the predominantly Black city still haunts Draper.   

(Photo: Family Freddie Gray)

She told theGrio that Black residents of the state, particularly the city of Baltimore, want change and accountability with its elected officials.

“Maryland is unique in that we can boast that we had the wealthiest county in the United States, but you dig deep in Maryland and you’ll find these large pockets of people who have not yet achieved the American dream, especially Black and brown people,” said Draper. “If we don’t really focus on creating equal access for all, starting with Baltimore City, the state, in my opinion, will not survive.”

Moore, a Takoma Park, Maryland native, currently resides in the Guilford area of Baltimore City, where he was told he could not frequent as a child because of his race. Race also prevented Black Marylanders from buying homes in the area as Baltimore City, which has a rich history of redlining. Moore told theGrio that he remembers decades ago an ordinance that barred African Americans and Jewish people from the neighborhood.

“That was on the deed and the neighborhood that I currently live in Baltimore,” said Moore. “It’s remarkable because now we just see how progress shows itself.”

If elected, Moore would succeed Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who has reached his term limit in office. Hogan, the 62nd governor of the state, is a cancer survivor and a “Never Trumper” who has been fiercely critical of former president Donald Trump. The two are locked into a proxy battle within the GOP party, between Republicans who support Trump and his false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, and those who are against his brand of politics. 

Hogan and Trump have not surprisingly endorsed opposing candidates in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Trump is supporting Maryland state legislator Dan Cox, who said President Joe Biden should not have been declared the winner of the 2020 contest and called former Vice President Mike Pence a “traitor” for standing against Trump to certify the Electoral College votes. Hogan meanwhile has endorsed Cox’s opponent Kelly Schulz.

AFRO News, the oldest Black business in Maryland and the third oldest in the country, according to Draper, interviewed Maryland candidates through a questionnaire and later announced endorsements in a number of races. AFRO News-backed candidates include: U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) for the state Attorney General, Donna Edwards for the 4th Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.) for re-election in the 7th Congressional District, and Marilyn Mosby to continue serving as Baltimore City state’s attorney.

Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md., conducts a news conference with members of the Maryland congressional delegation on the “Reconnecting Communities Act,” which aims to “reconnect and revitalize areas that were harmed by the construction of the Interstate Highway System and reform the long history of inequity in infrastructure, near Franklin and Monroe Streets in Baltimore, Md, on Monday May 17, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Brown, who had to step down from his seat in Congress to run for attorney general, has listed several top priorities, including reproductive rights. Since the once landmark ruling Roe v. Wade was recently overturned by the United States Supreme Court, Brown has emphasized his unique perspective as a former state legislator, Lt. governor and member of Congress. As attorney general, he vowed to “fight to preserve and guarantee access to reproductive health services and birth control and to help find new ways to expand access to abortion and contraception.”

Edwards, a former congresswoman who is aiming to get her old seat back in Congress, is hoping she can pull off a win against former Prince George’s County state’s attorney Glenn Ivey to succeed Brown and hold the seat she last held in 2017.

“I think now is actually the perfect time for me to go back in with my experience and seniority, really bringing that to bear for the district…I’m looking forward to getting back in the hunt,” Edwards told theGrio.

Edwards noted the racial disparities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic as a driver for why she decided to make her return to Capitol Hill. “We already knew [it] existed in health care and income and small business creation and developing capital and we’ve seen those disparities highlighted,” said Edwards. 

Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., speaks during the National Head Start Association’s 50th Anniversary rally for the Head Start program on the east side of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“I think it’s really going to be important in this time as we get a hold of our post-pandemic economy to make sure that that economy doesn’t continue to leave behind the communities that it has.”

The congressional contest between Edwards and Ivey is considered the most competitive of all the districts in Maryland. She told theGrio her priorities are lowering prescription drug costs, working on the economy and health care, as well as restoring voting rights.

“Let’s make sure our communities are working,” said Edwards. “And I’m looking forward to joining back into the Congress.”

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