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Former nonprofit executive from Montgomery County adds name to growing list of Maryland gubernatorial hopefuls

Jon Baron, a former nonprofit executive and federal official from Montgomery County, is weighing a Democratic run for governor of Maryland, joining a sizable and growing list of people jockeying to replace term-limited Gov. Larry Hogan in 2022.

Baron, 58, is vice president of Arnold Ventures, a Texas-based philanthropy backed by billionaire couple John and Laura Arnold. Baron previously led the nonprofit Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy from 2001 until its dissolution in 2015, held a post at the Pentagon in the Clinton administration, and was appointed to boards and commissions by both presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

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He joins a lengthy list of people trying to line up the support to succeed Hogan, a second-term Republican.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat, already has launched his campaign. Other Democrats weighing runs include former Democratic National Committee chair and U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez; former Obama administration Education Secretary John B. King Jr.; bestselling Baltimore-born author and educator Wes Moore; and U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown, who represents parts of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties and who lost the governor’s race to Hogan in 2014.

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Democratic county executives Johnny Olszewski Jr. of Baltimore County and Angela Alsobrooks of Prince George’s County have been approached about potentially joining the field, as has Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, a Republican.

Former nonprofit executive, Jon Baron, to explore run for Governor. Jon Baron in his Maryland residence Feb. 23, 2021. Photo by Chuck Kennedy
Former nonprofit executive, Jon Baron, to explore run for Governor. Jon Baron in his Maryland residence Feb. 23, 2021. Photo by Chuck Kennedy (Chuck Kennedy/Chuck Kennedy)

Current Republican Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford is considering mounting a campaign. So, too, is MSNBC commentator Michael Steele, a former Republican lieutenant governor who once chaired the Republican National Committee.

Despite Maryland’s overwhelmingly Democratic electorate — President Joe Biden carried the state by 33 points and Democrats hold supermajorities in both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly — two of the state’s past three governors have been Republicans.

Baron said he plans to campaign on bringing “a completely different approach to social spending” as governor, particularly by focusing on rigorous research on government programs, including by building randomized controlled studies into social programs and pilot efforts, something he contended hasn’t been embraced extensively enough by leaders in Annapolis. Baron said his former nonprofit and his work at Arnold Ventures focused on pushing that approach.

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The Arnolds are perhaps best known in Baltimore for funding a controversial and recently ended pilot program to fly surveillance aircraft over the city in hopes of solving violent crimes. Baron said he was not involved in that project and has spent his time at the company working on other issues, including job training and education programs.

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