After Democrat Wes Moore’s historic victory in the Maryland governor’s race Tuesday, he offered up an optimistic bipartisan vision to supporters, pledging to bring the state together and “leave no one behind.”
But in addition to the soaring rhetoric, the political newcomer ticked off a laundry list of key priorities on his agenda once he takes office in January, including public safety, free prekindergarten and a first-of-its kind “service year” option for all high school graduates in the state.
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“Y’all gave us a mandate,” Moore told cheering supporters Tuesday. “And that mandate is a vision for a healthier and a wealthier Maryland.”
Moore pledged a “world-class education system, starting with free pre-K for every single child in need in the state of Maryland.” That’s a key plank of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, the 10-year plan to overhaul the state’s education system.
“We will invest in apprenticeship programs and trade programs so that every Marylander, every young person, knows that there is a pathway to their long-term economic viability and long-term economic success,” Moore said.
In addition, Moore pledged that Maryland would be the first state in the country to offer a service-year option to all high school graduates — a program that would allow young people to spend a year on community service projects.
“It is service that will help to save us,” Moore said during his victory speech.
Moore also said his administration would work with police and communities. “We will make sure that we are keeping these illegal guns and these violent offenders off of our streets. In our Maryland, you will feel safe in your own neighborhoods, and you will feel safe in your own skin.”
Facing questions on the campaign trail, Moore consistently denied his ambitious plans will result in tax increases on Maryland families and pledged to boost economic growth in the state by getting more people in the workforce.
‘Hand in glove’
While votes are still being counted, Democrats are set to maintain their supermajorities in the House of Delegates and the state Senate. With Moore in the governor’s mansion, it will mark the first time since 2014 that Democrats have held all the levers of power in state government.
Democratic lawmakers say they were able to work with the administration of moderate Republican Larry Hogan, but predicted even more collaboration next year.
“I think over the last four years, we’ve been able to do some pretty remarkable things and accomplish some really important policies,” said Senate President Bill Ferguson, citing the 10-year education blueprint, climate change and dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We did it in a relatively collaborative way with Gov. Hogan,” Ferguson said. “I think the difference with a Moore administration is that there will be a lot more collaboration on the front end, as opposed to reacting on both sides.”
Other Democratic lawmakers had a frostier assessment of nearly a decade of divided power.
“I think what we’ve seen for the past eight years is a lack of engagement between the governor and the legislature,” said Del. Marc Korman, who represents District 16 in Montgomery County.
In practice, that often meant having to do things twice, he said.
“We would pass a bill; the governor would veto it, and we had to override it,” Korman added. “We can hopefully put that behind us and just focus on working collaboratively.”
Pointing to implementing the education blueprint, Korman said, “We’ll be able to work hand in glove with an administration to actually implement that bill.”
Korman said he foresees greater cooperation on a range of priorities, including steps to make it affordable for people to install solar panels and to deal with transportation challenges.
As far as items on the General Assembly’s agenda, Ferguson said lawmakers will work to write the legislative rules of the road to set up Maryland’s recreational marijuana marketplace. Voters Tuesday approved a constitutional amendment legalizing the adult use of marijuana starting next summer.
“There’s a lot of legislative work that has to happen this upcoming session to put these details of how the policy will work into law,” Ferguson said. “And so that’s going to be a hot-button issue that we’ll have to spend a lot of time on.”
He also said lawmakers will move to amend voting laws to allow for the early tabulating of mail-in ballots. “I think it’s really a shame that we are here a day after the election with such relative uncertainty,” he said, pointing to results in some jurisdictions, such as Anne Arundel County, where no mail-in ballots have been counted — and won’t be until Thursday.
“We’ve just got to count ballots ahead of time,” Ferguson said. “We should be able to release these numbers on Election Day. It’s unfortunate that we landed where we are today, but we will fix this moving forward.”
Lawmakers had approved legislation earlier this year allowing mail-in ballots to be tabulated ahead of Election Day, but Hogan vetoed the measure over election security concerns. It took weeks to count votes in some close races after the July primary.
WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.