Sanders backs former NAACP head in Maryland gov race

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE (I-Vt.) threw his weight behind former NAACP President Ben Jealous’ bid for Maryland governor on Thursday morning during an endorsement rally. 

Sanders and Jealous appeared together at a convention center in Silver Spring, Md., where the senator lauded Jealous as the right kind of leader to push back against President Trump at the state level. 

“We need, now more than ever … a very, very different kind of leadership,” Sanders said. 

“And what Ben Jealous is about, he has the radical idea that maybe, just maybe, you should represent all the people, not just the top 1 percent.”

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Although the event was much smaller than many of the rallies Sanders held during his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, a few hundred supporters filled the civic center for the event. Many wore shirts or buttons left over from Sanders’ failed run.

Jealous is running to unseat Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in 2018. Hogan won a surprise victory in 2014 in a state that typically backs Democrats.

In a speech, Jealous cast Hogan as a tool for Trump’s agenda.

“We are gathered today on Trump’s doorstep to let him know we are going to get rid of his doormat,” he said. 

Jealous went on to echo Sanders’ remarks on issues like single-payer healthcare and strengthening the middle class as he called on supporters to help him unseat Hogan in 2018. 

“Folks say, ‘Are you running to the left or running to the right?’ I’m running toward the people,” he said.

Hogan spokeswoman Amelia Chasse swatted aside the comments about the Republican governor and his record.

“No one in their right mind would believe any of this ridiculous partisan rhetoric. The governor didn’t vote for the president, so if this is the best argument they’ve got it’s laughably weak,” she said in a statement, highlighting Hogan’s work on issues like job growth and criminal justice.

“Out-of-state politicians repeating Washington, D.C., talking points simply won’t pass the smell test with Marylanders who overwhelmingly approve of the governor’s common sense, bipartisan policies that are changing Maryland for the better.”

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Winning the Democratic nomination will be no simple task for Jealous. The Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls include former Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE aide Alec Ross, Prince George’s County executive Rushern Baker and Maryland state Sen. Richard Madaleno. 

Sanders’ decision to back Jealous had been expected — Jealous serves on the board of Our Revolution, the Sanders-backed political group that sponsored the endorsement event.  

Jealous took the helm of the NAACP in 2008 as the youngest president in the group’s history, spending five years leading the civil rights group before stepping down in 2013.  

During the 2016 Democratic primary, Jealous emerged as one of Sanders’ most vocal surrogates, appearing with him on the trail and on television supporting his presidential bid. Jealous also played a key role in Sanders’ outreach to the black community, which largely backed Clinton in the primary.  

Clinton maintained her strong hold on black Democrats during the primary, but Sanders still has strong marks with black voters one year after the primary race. An April Harvard-Harris Poll survey provided exclusively to The Hill showed Sanders with a 73 percent approval rating among African Americans. 

While Sanders’ endorsement holds major sway with progressives both in the state and nationally, he lost the Maryland primary by an almost 30-point margin to Clinton. Updated: 2:47 p.m.

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