Wes Moore on becoming Maryland’s first Black governor: ‘I’m really humbled’

“We are the state of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman and Thurgood Marshall," the governor-elect said during a sitdown interview with theGrio.

Wes Moore’s historic victory in Tuesday’s Maryland gubernatorial race was one of few bright spots for Black candidates running for statewide office. At 44, Moore became the first Black governor in the state’s history. 

In an interview with theGrio, Moore said he understands the significance of his win. “I’m really humbled by this,” said Moore. “We are the state of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman and Thurgood Marshall.”

Gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore speaks during a rally with US President Joe Biden and US First Lady Jill Biden during a rally on the eve of the US midterm elections, at Bowie State University in Bowie, Maryland, on November 7, 2022. (Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

But Maryland is also a state that incarcerates more African-American young boys, between the ages of 18 and 25, than anywhere else in this country, the governor-elect noted. 

Moore, a Baltimore native who grew up in the Bronx, said his win is particularly meaningful because of what it will mean for young generations of boys in the state who look like him. “There will be a lot of 11-year-olds, who are in situations like the ones I was in, who will look at their governor and will see themselves,” said Moore. He added, “And I’ll see myself in them. And that’s how I plan on governing.”

While Moore has never held an elected office before his gubernatorial campaign, he has had previous success as a New York City investment banker, author, and television host and producer, including for the Oprah Winfrey Network. 

Moore also lived a life of service as the founder of an education company, BridgeEdU, that helped students transition to college, and later as the CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty nonprofit organization. The Rhodes Scholar is also a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan. 

Moore ran against Republican Dan Cox, an election denier who had the support of former President Donald Trump. Moore led an aggressive campaign up until Election Day, telling theGrio his strategy was to run as if he was “10 points behind.”

His unprecedented win is the result of support from people from across the state and from both sides of the aisle. “We won Democrats, we won over independents, and we took a good chunk of Republicans as well,” said Moore. 

President Joe Biden poses for photos with Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore during a campaign rally at Bowie State University in Bowie, Md., Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Cox previously did not commit to accepting the results of the elections if he lost; however, he conceded on Tuesday night and even gave a congratulatory call to Moore. “We spoke a little bit about his son, who is actually a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, which is my old unit in the military … I  was thankful to get the call from him,” Moore recalled.

According to poll results from The Associated Press, Moore defeated Cox with more than 60% of the vote. More than a million Marylanders cast their ballot for him. 

The next governor of Maryland said he plans to hit the ground running when he enters office in January. His priorities for the state are partnering with local jurisdictions on issues of public safety, holding law enforcement accountable, supporting the business community, and by extension, boosting the state’s economy. 

Baltimore is one of many American cities currently experiencing an uptick in crime and staving off economic downturns. As a native, the new governor plans to prioritize the predominantly Black city as he governs the state. His focus will include housing, transportation, education, and public safety.

“When you’ve watched a holistic breakdown, the only way to address that is a holistic build-up,” said Moore. 

Moore, who has been transparent about his trouble with the law as a rebellious youth, acknowledged the improbability of his rise in politics. From getting put in handcuffs at 11 years old, to watching his father die in front of him, to his mother working part-time jobs to make ends meet, Moore said, “If you would have said to that child, you’re one day going to be governor … I don’t think there was anybody who would have believed you.”

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