Progressive unions, allies take on Dem regulars again in Md. gubernatorial primary

Progressive unions, groups and allies are taking on Democratic Party regulars again, this time in the June 26 Maryland Democratic gubernatorial primary. But whoever wins faces an unenviable task, even in the deep-blue state: Trying to dislodge popular GOP Gov. Larry Hogan in November.

 

On the progressive side, National Nurses United, the Amalgamated Transit Union, Unite Here Local 7, the Postal Workers, Our Revolution Maryland, the Working Families Party, Progressive Maryland and Trans United Fund launched a joint campaign of people and money to promote one of the two leading hopefuls, former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous.

 

The eight groups “represent a cross-section of Maryland’s Democratic primary electorate which is heavily comprised of black voters, union members, and progressive white voters,” their statement said.

 

The Maryland State Education Association also endorsed Jealous. The state AFL-CIO is neutral and both the Maryland and Baltimore Teachers’ union affiliates are silent.

 

On the party regulars’ side, former Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley became the latest regular backer of the other leader, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker.

 

O’Malley, also a former Baltimore mayor, tried — unsuccessfully — to elbow his way into the 2016 Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders Democratic presidential primary contest. O’Malley joined former Gov. Parris Glendening, state Attorney General Brian Frosh and U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer in backing Baker.

 

 

The Maryland governor’s race is the latest tilt between the regulars and the progressives, with mixed results for both. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee used negative ads to beat a progressive in a Texas congressional runoff.

 

But the progressives came back with wins in three congressional primaries in California and another in Nebraska. In one California race and the Nebraska primary, the Progressive Congressional Campaign Committee criticized – and beat — pro-business Dems.

 

Early on, the establishment, including what’s left of the Chicago Democratic machine, had to pull out all the stops to push Rep. Dan Lipinski over the line against first-time candidate Marie Newman on the city’s Southwest Side and suburbs, 51 percent-49 percent. Unions split there, too: NNU’s Illinois affiliate backed Newman and the building trades plumped for Lipinski.

 

The Maryland governor’s race is a tossup. Despite their high-profile prior positions, the latest poll shows approximately 40 percent of Maryland Democrats are undecided, while Baker and Jealous are tied at 22 percent. Other hopefuls trail far behind.

 

Besides the unions and Our Revolution — the group Sanders supporters established after he lost the presidential nomination to Clinton — Sanders and Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., back Jealous. Jealous, Booker and Baker are African-American, as are at least one-quarter of Maryland Democratic primary voters.

 

Jealous is running on an openly progressive platform, including Medicare for All. “Health care is a moral and economic imperative we can no longer ignore,” he says. He promises to try to implement such a system “regardless of what President Trump does in Washington.” Medicare for all, Jealous adds, “will provide better care at less cost.”

 

He also pledges to raise the state minimum wage to $15 hourly, and implement wide-ranging criminal justice reforms, including establishing personality testing for potential police officers to weed out those with bias or violent tendencies.

 

Besides spending $500,000 for ads in the last weeks of the race, the groups put six full-time organizers on the ground, recruited hundreds of volunteers for face-to-face conversations, along with e-mails, phone banking, digital advertising and texting. The coalition plans to target 250,000 households.

 

“I see the effects of our broken health care system every day. I’m for Ben Jealous because he’ll fight for a single payer health care system that will work for everyone,” said Renelsa Caudill, RN, a National Nurses United leader in majority-African-American Prince George’s County. PG is one of the four big jurisdictions the coalition is campaigning in, along with Montgomery County – the largest in the state – Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

 

“When it comes to health care, families in Maryland — like the patients I see every day — should be able to focus on getting well, not how they’re going to pay for the bill,” added Caudill.

Source: PAI