With Maryland Democrats in the unaccustomed position of having lost the office of governor for two elections in a row to a Republican — something that hasn’t happened since former Baltimore Mayor Theodore McKeldin left the post after two consecutive four-year terms in 1959 — it was expected that the field would be crowded and competitive this year, and it was. Yet, in a race that features a former state attorney general, two Obama administration cabinet secretaries, a bestselling author and the outgoing longtime state comptroller, one individual stands out above the others: Tom Perez.
The former Montgomery County Councilmember, Harvard-trained civil rights lawyer, state and federal labor secretary and Democratic National Committee chairman is by far the most qualified and battle-tested of the candidates. He is The Baltimore Sun’s choice as Democratic nominee to be the state’s 63rd governor.
Outgoing Republican Gov. Larry Hogan will exit the State House as a popular political figure but not necessarily an accomplished one. While Mr. Hogan may have promised a lower-taxed, business friendly state government, his two terms have been marked by modest changes at best. Far worse, he has too often found political advantage in setting himself against Baltimore, rather than working with local officials and community leaders to improve it.
All of the Democrats running for governor have correctly identified the need for greater public investment in Charm City, but Mr. Perez, 60, offers the best opportunity to achieve that end, having already established strong relationships with local officials, state lawmakers and Democrats in Congress. If anyone can coax much-need transit aid from the Biden-Harris administration, for example, it would surely be the former labor secretary for Obama-Biden. And Mr. Perez can talk about racial injustice and police reform with no shortage of expertise, having served as head of the civil rights division within the U.S. Department of Justice. Jobs, addressing racial equity, improving transit infrastructure and housing security, providing greater access to broadband in underserved communities and addressing climate change are all worthy planks in the Perez platform. They also dovetail nicely with concerns too often neglected by the current administration in Annapolis.
In his conversation with The Baltimore Sun Editorial Board, Mr. Perez proudly proclaimed himself a representative of the practical “GSD” wing of his party meaning those who seek to “Get Stuff Done.” The Buffalo, New York, native and youngest of five children of Dominican Republic immigrant parents would also represent Maryland’s first Latino governor. He pledged that his choice for lieutenant governor, former Baltimore City Councilmember Shannon Sneed who is African American, will play an active role in his administration. That is also welcome news for Baltimore, which could use her advocacy.
As for the remaining candidates in the Democratic field, we would offer a shoutout to former U.S. Education Secretary John King Jr. whose deep knowledge of, and passion for, public education is truly impressive. Maryland would benefit from his continued involvement in the ongoing Blueprint for Maryland’s Future school reforms.
In the Republican primary, the choice is obvious. Former Frederick County Del. Kelly M. Schulz, 53, who has also served as Maryland’s labor secretary but more recently as commerce secretary, is the hands down pick in an otherwise not-ready-for-primetime field. While her campaign platform tracks GOP national talking points on matters of taxes, police reform and school choice, it is at least reality-based, and we believe there is common ground to be found across parties in her goals of improved public safety and educational opportunity, even if we don’t necessarily agree on the means to achieve them. The same cannot be said of such rivals as recently disbarred lawyer Robin Ficker or Del. Dan Cox, an ardent Donald Trump loyalist, who has labeled former Vice President Mike Pence a “traitor” during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and traffics in wild-eyed conspiracy theories.
Baltimore Sun editorial writers offer opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. They operate separately from the newsroom.