'Bring it on, Larry Hogan': Ben Jealous predicts victory in Maryland governor's race

The day after defeating a crowded Democratic field for Maryland governor, former NAACP president Ben Jealous predicted victory against his next opponent: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

Holding a press conference at the SEIU union office in Baltimore, Jealous on Wednesday compared his victory over five other competitive Democratic primary campaigns to climbing the second-highest mountain in the world.

Now it’s time, Jealous said, to conquer the highest peak.

“Bring it on Larry Hogan,” said Jealous, 45. “We won last night when nobody thought we would. … You tell us beating Hogan is like climbing Everest. Well, we just climbed K2. If you climb K2, you can climb Everest.”

Jealous won Maryland’s Democratic primary for governor Tuesday, promising to deliver a progressive agenda that makes college free, legalizes marijuana and raises the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Jealous was bolstered by support in the Baltimore region, spending from outside groups and an aggressive union-backed turnout machine. His victory over fellow front-runner Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, who was backed by the state’s political establishment, demonstrated the growing influence of the progressive wing of the Maryland Democratic Party.

The Democratic nominee argued that Hogan was able to win election in 2014 through low turnout. In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1, Jealous argued he can win by rallying the base.

“We won 22 out of 24 counties across the state,” Jealous said. “We won this race by running in every corner of this state, criss-crossing this state.”

Foreshadowing what is likely to be a heated general election for governor in November, Jealous targeted Hogan, 62, for a litany of criticism, ranging from lackluster job growth in the state to the rising costs of health care.

“You told the people of this state you would cut taxes. You didn’t do it,” Jealous said of Hogan at the press conference.

Even though Jealous backed Sen. Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a “Democratic Socialist,” the former NAACP president described himself as a “practicing venture capitalist.”

Jealous said he knows Republicans will try to cast him as too far to the left for the electorate in the general election. Hogan held a simultaneous news conference on Wednesday at which he called Jealous “risky” and “extreme.”

The Democratic nominee said those are fear tactics. His ambitious proposals, Jealous said, will be paid for through hundreds of millions of cuts to the prison system that will be available once he ends “mass incarceration.”

The Hogan administration noted that incarceration has declined under the Republican governor.

“We look forward to taking on Hogan on any issue,” Jealous said. “Why are you wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on a bloated criminal justice system? … Larry Hogan’s only hope is that he can scare people by pushing nonsense.”

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