WASHINGTON — Former head of the NAACP Ben Jealous won a decisive victory Tuesday night in the Democratic primary contest for Maryland governor, besting Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker in a race that pitted an insurgent candidate from the party’s progressive wing against a tried-and-true member of the state’s Democratic establishment.
The Associated Press called the race for Jealous shortly after 10:30 p.m.
Speaking to supporters at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History and Culture on Tuesday night, Jealous said Baker had called to concede the race.
Jealous opened an early and, ultimately overwhelming, lead over Baker during Tuesday’s vote-counting. As of 12 a.m. Wednesday, with 99 percent of precincts statewide reporting results, Baker trailed Jealous by more than 10 percentage points.
Polling in the final weeks indicated the race had mostly tightened to a two-person race between Baker, who had racked up an endorsement from The Washington Post, and many of the state’s most prominent party leaders, and Jealous, who snagged endorsements from Sens. Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.
During the campaign, Jealous ran on a progressive platform, pledging to support tuition-free college education and universal health care by expanding Medicare for all. He also proposed legalizing the adult use of marijuana in the state and taxing its use to pay for universal pre-kindergarten.
Jealous, who was endorsed by the Maryland State Education Association, has also promised to boost teacher salaries by 29 percent.
Jealous will challenge Republican popular Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in the general election.
Democrats outnumber Republicans in Maryland by a margin of 2 to 1 and President Donald Trump is deeply unpopular in the state. Still, most political analysts say it’s uncertain whether a predicted “blue wave” in November will be strong enough to wash the popular Hogan out of the governor’s mansion in the general election.
In the same poll, more than half of respondents — 51 percent — said they would vote for Hogan over Jealous.
Still, analysts predict the race to tighten once a Democratic nominee is selected.
In a tweet, Hogan congratulated Jealous on his primary victory and said he looked forward “to a vigorous debate on the direction of our state and the issues that matter most to Marylanders.”
“We are ready to pull our party together and go out there and beat Larry Hogan,” Jealous said during a lengthy address to supporters Tuesday night.
In his speech, Jealous told the crowd of cheering supporters: “I’m not running to the left; I’m not running to the right; I’m running towards the people of our state. Health care, education, mass incarceration, ending the student debt crisis and protecting the environment are people issues.”
Jealous would be the first African-American governor of Maryland if he’s elected in November. Jealous’ running mate is Susie Turnbull.