Maryland Democrats have reason to be optimistic in 2022

By ever predictive measure, Maryland’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee, former NAACP chief Ben Jealous, will lose handily to Gov. Larry Hogan on November 6th.

Jealous’ campaign, as kindly as it can be said, has suffered a long litany of catastrophic defeats since his come-from-behind victory in the June Democratic primary.

Couple those defeats with some statewide Democrats half-heartedly supporting his bid and pledging not to campaign against Hogan (e.g., Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett) as well as Jealous’ unrelenting week-by-week blunders and gaffes, all self-inflicted, his campaign would make for a great episode of Arrested Development.

Most Maryland Democrats who’ve been around Maryland for a while privately concede the indisputable fact that Jealous’ campaign has been nothing short of a categorical disaster.

The Jealous campaign, some Maryland Democrats privately concede, is a textbook example of how not to run for governor of Maryland.

Mr. Jealous has developed an unfortunate public perception problem as an intemperate, ego-driven outsider; his fundraising and grassroots outreach are to the tune of a funeral march; his disjointed messaging combined with his implausible policy goals and no cohesive payment plan are laughable, and his hired staff sorely lacks the gravitas worthy of a gubernatorial campaign in a Democratic state.

And the chatter that Jealous has a #MeToo problem – an eyebrow-raising issue that was brought to the surface in the heat of the Democratic primary by one Jealous’ former Democratic opponents, state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery), has, by now, circled state politics. Even if some Maryland Democrats refuse to acknowledge the issue, it’s still a lingering topic in every corner of the state.

Maryland Democrats should, can and probably will shake off Jealous’ loss quickly.

Democrats will naturally regroup after November 6, soon forgetting that their 2018 nominee was the first Democratic gubernatorial candidate to lose to an incumbent Republican governor in six decades. (The late Theodore McKeldin was the last Republican governor of Maryland to win a second term – in 1954.)

The Democrats should expend little effort analyzing Mr. Jealous’ defeat. He was never perceived by a majority of Marylanders as authentically Maryland. He chose not to run a Maryland-centric campaign, and, much to his peril, he seemingly ignored wide swaths of Marylanders that actually vote. It’s that simple. Democrats should not overthink it.

Maryland Democrats, though, should take heart: The 2022 Democratic gubernatorial bench will include some top-notch talent.

The Top-Tier

A Miner Detail undoubtedly predicts that soon-to-be Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks will instantly become the Democratic frontrunner for governor in 2022.

Alsobrook’s political star is about to shine brighter once she assumes the county executive seat. PG County’s executive seat comes with a statewide platform. It’s up to Alsobrooks to avoid the mistakes of her predecessor and use wisely her newfound star political power. The Alsobrooks name will become more common among Democrats as 2022 approaches. She is the future of Maryland’s Democratic Party in every way possible. Bet on Alsobrooks as the top of the 2022 ticket.

Second on the prospect list is a no-brainer: Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot.

To date, Peter Franchot, who is cruising to his fourth term as the state’s top fiscal watchdog, is one of the most popular elected Democrats in Maryland. The business-friendly former Takoma Park state delegate-turned moderate is often seen as in independent voice in a sea of party-driven Democrats.

A thorn in the side of Senate President Mike Miller, a position Franchot takes seriously, attracts even the most ardent progressive activists who share similar disdain for Miller and Company.

Even some of the most conservative Republicans are publicly pledging to support the renegade Democrat this election. Franchot may not be a favorite of the Jealous wing of Maryland’s Democratic party, who does he care? Should he care? Absolutely not.

Former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler placed second to Anthony Brown in 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary and has maintained an active profile since, despite being out of public office for the last four years.

Gansler may have taken a pass on a gubernatorial bid this time around, because, perhaps, he recognized Hogan’s growing popularity. The former AG has access to significant cash and could quickly mount an effective grassroots campaign.

And Doug Gansler has what Ben Jealous simply does not: Curb appeal.

If you meet Gansler and chat with him beyond the surface, Marylanders say they really like him. It’s true.

The Wildcards

John Delaney, A Miner Detail predicts, would have been Larry Hogan’s toughest competition if he ran for governor this year, assuming he would have won the Democratic nomination. Even Hogan’s closest advisers concede this general election race would have been “a much different and much closer race” had Delaney been the Democratic nominee.

While Delaney has his eyes on a different capital, giving up Maryland, for now, for Manchester, should Delaney’s presidential campaign go bust, look for Delaney – a mega-wealthy self-made multi-millionaire former business executive and three-term congressman – to give serious thought to a more parochial political bid. Much to his credit, Delaney is data-driven; he’ll make moves if the numbers align in his favor.

Most political insiders predict that if David Trone succeeds John Delaney in Congress, he won’t stay in the 6th District congressional seat for long – by his own will or because congressional redistricting gives him the proverbial boot.

Trone, like Delaney, is a former multi-millionaire business executive, now running as an everyday-Joe, mixing it up with the working-class folk of Western Maryland but nonetheless returning at night to his Potomac McMansion. The liquor mogul has vowed to spend whatever it takes to win a congressional seat. What’s a few million more on a gubernatorial race?

Salisbury Mayor Jake Day is by and large the Democrat’s golden boy of the Eastern Shore. The moderate Democrat and Army Nationl Guard officer has put partisan politics aside and has governed a city back to prosperity, of course with the help of his city council.

Day is a dynamic and innovative thinker, breathing new life into one of Maryland’s most unique cities. Depending on where the party’s ideology falls in 2022, Day may be Maryland’s next breakout statewide star.

State Sen. Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery) is a consummate legislator, revered among his Senate colleagues as both wonky and charismatic. The District 15 state senator is about as policy-detailed as one could hope for, with a great personality to boot. If Feldman develops a statewide following of the next four years, look for him to make some strategic moves.

Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner appears by all indications to be heading for re-election against the indomitably unlikable Republican Kathy Afzali, a state delegate from District 4. Garnder has earned a reputation for governing over conservative Frederick County as a moderate, a center-left Democrat, with a knack for constituent services. Look for Gardner to ramp up her statewide profile over the next four years.

The “Just Don’t Do It” Crowd:

Just don’t run, because it won’t end well.

  • Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery)
  • Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery)

Next up, the Republican’s 2022 gubernatorial bench.

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