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Biden joins Md. Democrats to rally behind Ben Jealous' campaign for governor

Biden joins Md. Democrats to rally behind Ben Jealous' campaign for governor
Former Vice President Joe Biden delivered the keynote address at a fundraiser for Ben Jealous' campaign against Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Maryland Democratic Party officials said the event attracted 250 people and raised $150,000 Saturday night at Camden Yards in Baltimore. (Doug Donovan / The Baltimore Sun)

Former Vice President Joe Biden joined Maryland Democrats Saturday night at Camden Yards to rally support for Ben Jealous as he mounts his campaign against Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, just four days after winning his party’s contested primary.

The former Delaware senator said Democrats need to end inner-party bickering to take back Congress and win local and state elections to defeat a Republican Party that he said favors corporations and wealthy donors over middle-class, working families.

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“We have to stop them,” Biden told a crowd of 250 at the Jealous fundraiser. “We can’t do it if we’re divided.”

Biden was joined by the Maryland Democratic Party’s biggest names and representatives of the campaigns that rivaled Jealous. Among the Democratic leaders were Sen. Ben Cardin, former Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, and Reps. Elijah Cummings, John Sarbanes and C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger.

The Democratic luminaries praised Jealous for championing progressive values of universal health care, free college tuition and ending mass incarceration. They said his campaign will convince Maryland voters to choose the 45-year-old former NAACP president over Hogan, a popular, 62-year-old businessman with a massive campaign warchest.

Jealous last month reported raising $1 million since January, and had $660,000 on hand. Hogan raised more than $1 million in roughly a month, and reported more than $9 million on hand.

“While Hogan has the money right now, something tells me we’re going to find it, too,” Jealous said.

Democratic Party sources said Jealous raised about $150,000 at the “unity celebration,” which began as the Orioles were ahead of the Angels 2-1 and ended after the team had lost the game. Tickets to the event cost $250 while sponsorships ranged from $2,500 to $25,000.

Jealous won Tuesday’s primary election, finishing ahead of Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III, whose running mate, Elizabeth Embry, was among the Democrats gathered Saturday on the sixth floor of the warehouse overlooking the baseball field. Rival candidate Krish Vignarajah also attended the event.

Jealous won in Baltimore and all but two counties — Prince George’s and Calvert — and vowed to “fight for every vote in every corner” of Maryland to win the General Election.

A day after the primary, Hogan and Jealous wasted little time kicking off their campaigns against each other. Hogan declared his newly minted Democratic rival “too risky” and “too extreme” for Maryland for promising programs that would be too expensive.

Jealous railed against Hogan by painting him as an ineffective governor who partners with or remains silent about the Trump administration.

Jealous, Perez, Cardin and Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Kathleen Matthews hit those same themes in separate speeches Saturday night.

Contacted afterward, Hogan campaign spokesman Doug Mayer said Hogan “has a proven track record of working with Maryland Democratic leaders to implement the solutions to the problems Marylanders care about the most.” He provided a list of positive comments several Democrats in Maryland have made about Hogan for his “bipartisan leadership, and his record support from both Democrats and independents.”

At the event, Perez said voters had to be on guard against what he characterized as Republican attempts to diminish turnout at the polls, pointing to the mistake revealed just before the primary that 80,000 registered voters would have to cast provisional ballots because of a computer glitch at the Motor Vehicle Administration. The governor has ordered an audit of the mistake to determine how it occurred.

“They were either incompetent or sinister,” said Perez, a Montgomery County Democrat who served as a state and U.S. labor secretary under former Gov. Martin O’Malley and President Barack Obama, respectively.

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He said Hogan and Trump were helping to usher in an “era of plutocrats” over working people, a theme Jealous also sounded in his remarks.

“The way we build our economy is from the bottom up,” Jealous said, vowing to end poverty in Maryland, “the wealthiest state in the wealthiest nation” on the planet.

Jealous’ running mate, Susan Turnbull, told the crowd that all Democrats needed to coalesce behind their ticket to defeat Hogan.

“This only happens if we unite,” Turnbull said. “Our biggest difference is not with each other. It’s with Larry Hogan.”

Biden said the national narrative of a battle in the Democratic Party between progressive supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders and moderate supporters of Hillary Clinton was overblown, that the party has always been inclusive of both policy positions.

He said the defining issue “of our time is to restore and expand access to the middle class.”

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