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Wes Moore, author and former nonprofit executive, launches campaign for Maryland governor

Author, former nonprofit executive and combat veteran Wes Moore on Monday afternoon officially joined the field of Democratic candidates vying to become the next governor of Maryland in 2022.

Moore, 42, said he plans to make “economic opportunity and economic stability for all of our families” the centerpiece of his bid to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who is term limited.

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He stepped down last month as CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at fighting poverty. Moore has never run for political office before but has become well-known among Maryland political figures and his potential interest in joining the crowded Democratic field for governor has been widely discussed in recent months.

Wes Moore talks with friends at a coffee shop in Pigtown after announcing that he's running for governor of Maryland.
Wes Moore talks with friends at a coffee shop in Pigtown after announcing that he's running for governor of Maryland. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun)

Although the Robin Hood Foundation’s offices are based in New York City, Moore’s campaign said he continued to live in Baltimore with his family during his four-year tenure leading the organization.

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“We live in a state right now that’s one of the wealthiest states in the country and it’s also one of the most inequitable,” Moore said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun about launching his campaign. “Those two things cannot live next to each other, where we have world-class schools and chronically underfunded ones, where we have world-class health institutions and people who can’t afford to be treated in them.”

Moore cited his own childhood — which was upended after the death of his father when Moore was 3 years old — as a formative experience that shaped his thinking about opportunity and stability. Moore said his mother, despite holding a master’s degree, didn’t land her first job that offered benefits until the family moved to Baltimore City when he was 14.

Moore’s best-known book, “The Other Wes Moore,” followed the disparate lives of himself and another man by the same name from Baltimore who spent much of his youth in the city but ended up in prison.

Moore, an international relations graduate of Johns Hopkins University, earned a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University in England and then served as an officer in the U.S. Army, where he saw combat in Afghanistan. He also worked in finance and spent a year working in federal government on a White House fellowship.

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Although a political newcomer, Moore pointed to his leadership experience in business and the military — and his nonprofit work focused on poverty and education — as qualifications to take over as the state’s next governor.

“I brought about change outside of government and I look forward to doing it inside of government,” Moore said.

Moore joins seven other Democratic hopefuls running for the party’s nomination in 2022. The field already includes state Comptroller Peter Franchot; former Attorney General Doug Gansler; former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III; John B. King, who served as federal education secretary in President Barack Obama’s cabinet; Baltimore tech entrepreneur and businessman Mike Rosenbaum; Jon Baron, who works for the Arnold Ventures philanthropic organization; and Ashwani Jain, who worked in the Obama White House.

The crowded field could pose challenges for Moore and other candidates that haven’t mounted statewide campaigns in the past. But political observers said Moore could contend against experienced politicians because he has traits that might lend themselves well to mounting an outsider campaign.

“I think it’s important that we recognize where we are in the campaign as a whole,” said Mileah Kromer, a professor of political science at Goucher College and the director of the Goucher Poll, who noted that some successful candidates in previous statewide races were still relatively unknown this far out from the election. “I wouldn’t expect anybody to have high levels of name recognition right now, save for Peter Franchot, and even then it’s not as if he’s a U.S. senator or an incumbent.”

Kromer said Moore “has a clear base here in Baltimore. People in Baltimore know him, he’s written a widely read book and anybody who has ever met him in person knows that he’s really personally engaging.” She said his previous experience handling the media and fundraising for a nonprofit could be strong assets when mounting an outsider political campaign.

Karsonya “Kaye” Whitehead, a Loyola University Maryland associate professor of communication and African and African American Studies and a talk show host, agreed Moore could make a mark in the race.

“I think this is an incredible opportunity for someone who is not a politician but is someone who has name recognition. Wes Moore as a name and a brand with the work he’s done is well-known,” Whitehead said. “You have to come into the field with name recognition and Wes Moore has that.”

The best-known declared Republican candidate is Kelly Schulz, who serves as state commerce secretary under Hogan. The governor is barred by state law from seeking a third term after cruising to re-election in 2018 over Democratic nominee Ben Jealous.

Maryland voters are overwhelmingly Democratic — with the party dominating most statewide elections and regularly carrying the state by wide margins in presidential contests — and the party holds veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly. But Republicans have vexed Democrats in governor’s races over the past two decades, winning three of the past five elections.

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