U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders brought a jolt of energy Tuesday night to Democrat Ben Jealous’ struggling campaign to unseat Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, telling a raucous full house in a historic Bethesda theater that Jealous will be one of the greatest governors in U.S. history.
Meanwhile, in Baltimore County, Hogan lent some of his popularity there to Republican Al Redmer’s campaign to win the county executive post for the Republican Party for the first time since 1990.
For Sanders, an independent from Vermont, it was his fifth visit to Maryland in support of Jealous and the first of the general election campaign. Jealous was one of the most enthusiastic surrogates for Sanders during the senator's 2016 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, and Sanders was a staunch supporter during this year’s gubernatorial primary contest in Maryland.
Sanders did not win Maryland’s presidential primary in 2016, but Tuesday night’s event showed he still has a strong following in the state. Before the event, admirers lined up around the corner to get in.
The possible 2020 presidential candidate did not disappoint his fans, delivering a rousing speech hitting many of the themes he emphasized during his earlier presidential run, including universal health care, free college tuition and criminal justice reform.
“We want to have the best-educated people on earth, not people who are being destroyed by outrageous levels of student debt,” Sanders told the crowd, which included many young people.
Jealous followed with an equally fiery exhortation to vote and bring others to cast ballots in the face of polls that show Hogan with a commanding lead.
“I taught everyone in the primary one lesson: Polls don’t vote,” Jealous said.
The Montgomery County rally brought together a group of leading Democrats who were not shy about supporting a nominee that some Democrats in more conservative counties are keeping at a distance. Among those turning out Tuesday for Jealous were U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, state Attorney General Brian Frosh and former Gov. Martin O’Malley, who delivered blistering comments about his successor’s record.
“There is something rotten in Annapolis,” O’Malley said in a rare appearance at a Maryland political event. “It’s the smell of a fish rotting from the head down.”
About the same time in White Marsh, Hogan told a crowd of GOP supporters about the changes he has made in Maryland since he succeeded O’Malley.
“I stood on the steps of our historic State House four years ago and I said that we’re going to put Maryland on a new path,” Hogan said. “We’re gonna try to grow our private sector, put more people to work and turn our economy around. And guess what? You know, I might be new to this politics thing, I don’t really know how it works, I’m just doing exactly what I said I was gonna do.”
Hogan is seeking a second four-year term.
Early voting runs through Thursday. In the first five days, about 370,000 Marylanders have cast ballots. After he voted Tuesday afternoon in Annapolis, Hogan said it was “terrific” that so many people voted early.
“The more people who are voting, the better,” he said.
At the Baltimore County event, GOP supporters waited to see Hogan and Redmer, who is running against Democrat Johnny Olszewski Jr..
Hogan highlighted his record of cuts to taxes, fees, tolls and “job-killing regulations.”
“So, Halloween is coming up, right? ... while we’re talking about Halloween, I wanna talk about something really scary,” Hogan said. “Can you imagine waking up the day after the election and Ben Jealous is governor, Johnny O is county executive and we don’t get all these great candidates behind me elected?”
As he said the Democrats’ names, the crowd booed.
Hogan urged supporters not to be complacent despite high poll numbers.
“We’re gonna need every single vote,” Hogan said. “I don’t want anybody taking this for granted.”
Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Libby Solomon contributed to this article.