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Demanding Medicare for All, Climate Action, and Living Wages, Ben Jealous Wins Democratic Primary for Maryland Governor

"This was an election based on values, ideas and a vision for the state—and respect for the working people who live here."

Ben Jealous won the Democratic primary in Maryland's race for governor on Tuesday, after running a campaign focused on Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, and other progressive policies. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Among the progressive victories out of Tuesday's elections was that of Ben Jealous, who beat out eight opponents in Maryland's Democratic primary for governor after offering voters a platform focused on criminal justice reform, single-payer healthcare, and demanding a living wage for all workers in the state.

Jealous, former president of the NAACP and a prominent surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders during his presidential run in 2016, was congratulated broadly by his fellow progressives after the win.

"The election shows a shift the balance of power rising in Maryland, a clear indication that progressives are a strong enough force to win statewide elections," Larry Stafford, Jr., executive director of Progressive Maryland, said in a statement. "This was an election based on values, ideas and a vision for the state—and respect for the working people who live here."

Jealous, former president of the NAACP, has been an outspoken proponent of Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, and reforming the state's criminal justice system by ending cash bail and protecting residents from discriminatory profiling and unlawful searches by police.

"Our goal is to not just win an election but to build a movement, which will allow us to lead into law the new agenda that this state so desperately needs," Jealous told his supporters at a victory party in Baltimore on Tuesday night.

Jealous's campaign won endorsements from Justice Democrats, the state's largest teachers union, 350.org, and People's Action, which sent volunteers to knock on the doors of 100,000 Maryland residents, frequently speaking with black, Latino, and low-income Marylanders about Jealous's commitment to fighting for working families.

Like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's stunning defeat of incumbent Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley in New York's 14th congressional district, Jealous secured his victory by offering voters an unapologetically progressive agenda and a tireless campaign focused on speaking with voters themselves about their lives and concerns.

"What's new and promising is the bringing together of a radically progressive platform with boots-on-the-ground support from a diverse coalition," wrote Theo Anderson at In These Times. "It includes new and traditional electoral infrastructure, a grassroots base of volunteers, and a plan to reach out to underrepresented minorities who tend vote at lower rates than the general population."

May Boeve, executive director of 350 Action, applauded Jealous's win and highlighted his participation in direct actions against corporate polluters, alongside progressive Americans.

"Tonight is a win for climate progressives everywhere," said Boeve. "Ben Jealous is living proof that our movements are greater than the sum of our parts. At the height of the Standing Rock fight he was with us on the streets linking arms with water protectors. Tonight's victory shows that running as a movement candidate pays off."

Jealous won more than 39 percent of the vote on Tuesday, with Rushern Baker coming in second by a 10-point margin. The Baltimore Sun explained its reasoning for endorsing Jealous earlier this month:

Many Democratic primary voters are probably looking at the field with an eye toward which candidate provides the party with the best chance to beat Governor Hogan. We understand that impulse, but it is not how we made our decision. Rather, we looked for the candidate who is best able to articulate a cohesive progressive vision to contrast with Mr. Hogan’s center-right policies so that voters can send a clear message in November about the direction they want the state to take... 

Jealous will face Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in November's general election.

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