In advance of the primary election, The Baltimore Sun editorial board conducted interviews with top candidates for several positions in the city and state to help inform our political endorsements. Here are excerpts from our conversation with author and nonprofit leader Wes Moore, who has now won the Democratic nomination for governor in Maryland.
On the role of Baltimore in the state:
You cannot have a thriving Maryland, if you have an unhealthy Baltimore. And I don’t just say that because I am a proud Baltimorean. And I don’t just say that, because I’ve been working on these issues for much of my adult life. I say that because I’m good at math. We have got to center Baltimore in the conversation that we are going to have about the future of this state. And when people talk about, well, how does that show itself? Or what are the things that we need to be able to address? You know: Is it is it is it education? Is it transportation? Is it public safety? My answer is easy. It’s: Yes.
On the state’s role in addressing the city’s crime:
You know, just in the past months, while I’ve been on the campaign trail, I’ve had to speak at the funeral of a brother of a good friend of mine, who was shot, you know, dozens of times in his car in a case of mistaken identity. I’ve had to speak at the vigil of a 69-year-old grandmother, who was a volunteer at my church, was a volunteer custodian at my church, who was killed in our church bathroom. So this is not a “they have to figure it out” thing. There are things specifically, specifically, that the state of Maryland can do that it is not doing right now. And I’m proud of the fact that our campaign has been aggressive on this. Our campaign was the only campaign that actually put together a plan, a plan around what the state can do to address gun violence. ... It included things like: We have to fix the Department of Parole and Probation, because a third of all Baltimore homicides were conducted by people who are in some way, shape or form are in violation of parole and probation, i.e. we know who the trigger pullers are. ... There’s no mayor nor City Council person that’s responsible for DPP; that’s a state function.
On addressing issues of race and bias in government:
You know, the issue of race is one that continues to sit not just on Baltimore, and not just on Maryland, but continues to sit on this country. The number one predictor of life outcomes, when you disaggregate the data, is race. ... This state is, is now one of the most diverse states in this country, by far the most diverse state in the East Coast; over 50% of our population is people of color.
... There needs to be a level of transparency and honesty about the fact that this does matter. ... And we have to be able to approach it with a focus of why it matters [not] just to an individual group. ... For example, you know, the reason that we talked about the racial wealth gap and the importance of closing the racial wealth gap over the next decade is not because it impacts one community, right? Citi Group just released a report indicating that the racial wealth gap has cost this country $16 trillion over the past two decades. That’s not impacting one group; . $16 trillion of GDP growth is impacting all of us.
... We have an administration right now, that does not reflect the state of Maryland. And when I say that our administration is going to be the most diverse administration, when I say that we’re going to have an administration that looks like the state, that’s not because it sounds good. It’s not because it’s a great talking point. It’s because it makes us stronger. ... It’s because we care about the future of our state, and making sure that everyone in our state feels heard and seen and reflected in the work that we’re doing.
On Maryland’s missteps in addressing COVID:
Our local elected officials were left to do things on their own. And I heard repeatedly from county executives, repeatedly from mayors, that there was just no guidance, there was no collaboration as to how people were thinking about things. And it’s the reason that we saw so many fits and starts and, and this jurisdiction doing this, without having the information [about] what that jurisdiction was doing. ... The only reason there was coordination was because county executives and mayors were coordinating on their own, and that needed to be changed. We needed a leader, we needed someone who would actually bring folks around and be able to ensure that there was a measured and a coordinated response that we are going to have as a state, and that was not there. So there needs to be a greater level of community outreach and engagement, as well.
... We saw the impacts that COVID had on our children’s education. ... We need to do everything in our power to ensure that our kids are going to remain inside the classrooms [and] to have actual plan in place that can keep Marylanders safe during future waves of COVID and also during future pandemics. The other thing, the one final thing I’ll say, is that I think we have to do a better job of ... actually supporting our health care workers. ... I am, I’m terribly concerned about the shortages that we are already seeing within our health care [professions].
On failing to correct the record when others say he’s a Baltimore native:
Yeah, I mean, there was never an attempt on my part, to allow another narrative to take hold or, or to allow anyone to believe anything that was not true. You know, if I knew my deference towards politeness in a live interview would be misconstrued to attack me and to attack my character, to attack my integrity, then, of course, I would have handled things differently.
But the thing that I know is, I don’t have any reason to exaggerate about my life. And I have no reason to exaggerate about the things that I’ve done. On my military service, I volunteered to join the army. I led soldiers, I led paratroopers in combat. I was a decorated — am a decorated — combat veteran. I led soldiers with 82nd Airborne Division on in Khost, Afghanistan, on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. I know if you look at the ratings that I received from senior leaders of the 82nd airborne division and elite fighting brigade, where they call me a top 1% officer.
... I have nothing to exaggerate about my life from my childhood. ... Even the political opponents who tried to attack me because they thought they could get political points out of it. You know, they even said that there was nothing that ... I wrote or anything that I said, that was incorrect. It was about: Did I correct someone on a live interview? That’s what the challenge was, right? ... What I said was accurate. I was born down in Montgomery County. And it was tragedy that forced me to move; it was watching my father die in front of me. And I moved to go live with my grandparents; my grandpa was a minister, my grandmother was a schoolteacher. And then it wasn’t until my mom got her first job that gave her benefits that moved me back to Maryland. And that’s where I first fell in love with Baltimore. And I’ve been a very proud Baltimorean ever since, and no one can take that away from me.
On governing for all, not just Democrats:
People look at our campaign, they’re like: “you guys were everywhere.” And I’m like, get used to it, because that’s how we plan on governing. ... We had a meeting with a group of small business owners in Dundalk. ... And I’m going over my plan and our plan for small businesses. And one of the guys stops me and says, “so listen, I gotta tell you, I like, I really like what I’m hearing,” he said, “but I’m on the other side.” And I told him, I said, “What does that mean?” He said, “it just means I’m a Republican.” And I told him, I said, “Do you know question I never once asked my soldiers, when I was leading soldiers in combat. What’s your political party? It didn’t matter. Right? We had one job, one mission, my goal was to unify our team and unify our unit to be able to accomplish a singular mission. ... When I ran a business? [One] question I never either asked my co-workers or my customers, you know, “how’d you vote in the last election?” Didn’t matter. One goal, one mission. And so that’s how I plan on leading.