By the numbers: How Ben Jealous beat out Rushern Baker in primary race for governor

Former NAACP chief Ben Jealous won Maryland’s Democratic primary for governor Tuesday. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun video)

Ben Jealous won the Democratic primary for Maryland governor by scoring an overwhelming margin in the Baltimore region and posting a strong performance in the Washington suburbs where his chief rival, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, was expected to perform well.

An analysis of preliminary Maryland Board of Election data from the Tuesday primary and early voting showed that slightly more than 552,000 Democrats cast ballots, or 25.6 percent of the state’s 2.15 million registered Democratic voters. That turnout was better than the 22.5 percent of Democrats who voted early and on election day in 2014 when a different Prince George’s County Democrat, Anthony Brown, won the nomination with more than half the total vote.


Baker’s 29 percent statewide showing lost out to Jealous’ 40 percent in a field that included four other major candidates.

How Democratic voters were split between Ben Jealous and Rushern Baker in the gubernatorial primary.
How Democratic voters were split between Ben Jealous and Rushern Baker in the gubernatorial primary. (Baltimore Sun graphic)

Turnout for Democrats was strongest in Montgomery County, where nearly 116,000 of the Washington suburb’s 382,000 registered Democrats cast ballots on Election Day and during early voting. Jealous outperformed Baker there by winning 36 percent of the vote to Baker’s 32 percent.


Another 121,000 people voted in Prince George’s County. That was 27 percent of the county’s 453,000 registered Democrats, the most in the state. Baker, as expected, got the bulk of the support, but had not surpassed 50 percent as of Wednesday morning. The numbers are likely to shift slightly as remaining precincts and provisional ballots are counted.

Still, Jealous, 45, emerged from his rival’s turf with 38 percent, or nearly 46,000 Prince George’s County voters.

That shocked Larry Gibson, a University of Maryland law professor, longtime political consultant and Baker supporter.

“The race was over when that happened,” Gibson said. “If Baker didn’t overwhelmingly carry his [Washington] base he couldn’t win. Once that didn’t happen he didn’t have a path to victory.”

It appears that criticism of Baker’s management of Prince George’s County schools resonated in the Washington suburbs, Gibson said.

“I thought education was working as a plus for Rushern but apparently it did not,” Gibson said.

Diarra O. Robertson, chairman of Bowie State University’s department of history and government, said that being a “known commodity” in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties could have hurt as much as helped Baker.

“I had questions about Baker’s support in Prince George’s County,” Robertson said.

No. 1: The establishment lost and the progressives won.

Robertson, also a political science professor, said Jealous’ ability to tap into the enthusiasm that comes with the grassroots, activist wing of the Democratic electorate likely fueled his ability to generate better turnout across the state. Baker, 59, relied on the more traditional Democratic message, he said.

“Candidates who want to ensure strong turnout can’t rest on their laurels with a message of the centrist Democrats of the past,” Robertson said. “I don’t know if Democratic voters are enthusiastic about that. And Baker was the default establishment candidate.”

Turnout was less vibrant throughout the Baltimore region, but strongly favored Jealous. In Baltimore city, 24 percent of registered city Democrats, or about 72,000 voters, cast early and Election Day ballots. And about a quarter of registered Democrats, or nearly 79,000, voted in Baltimore County.

Former NAACP chief Ben 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.

Meanwhile, Anne Arundel County barely hit 23 percent with 36,500 voters while Harford County’s 13,700 voters accounted for 21 percent of the county’s registered Democrats.


Howard County voters had the highest turnout in the region, nearly matching Montgomery County’s 30 percent.

Jealous crushed Baker in the Baltimore region, despite Baker’s backing from such Baltimore notables as former mayor and Gov. Martin O’Malley and multiple other legislative leaders.

Jealous won in the city with 43 percent of the vote to Baker’s 19 percent. In Baltimore County, the margin was just as large — with Jealous earning 42 percent to Baker’s 18 percent. Jealous expanded those margins with a 47 percent showing in Howard County and 46 percent in Harford County. In Anne Arundel he won with 40 percent. In Carroll, 43 percent supported the former NAACP president who now goes on to face Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in November.

Baltimore lawyer, Jim Shea, who finished third with 8 percent of the total race, likely hurt Baker’s efforts in the city and Baltimore County, where the Venable executive posted double-digit performances (19.5 percent in the city; 16 percent in the county).

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