Moore, 43, is heavily favored to win in the Deep Blue state, which would return Annapolis to the single-party dominance Democrats have enjoyed for much of the past 50 years. A best-selling author and former non-profit leader who lacks a record in public office, he is a political newcomer who beat nine candidates in the July primary on the strength of his charisma and personal history. On the campaign trail and in debates, he was never compelled to lay out plans in detail, as there were few political differences between them.
In preparation for election day, he sharpens and aims to sharpen political pitches to voters lofty goals, including ending child poverty and closing the racial wealth gap, systemic problems that have long been unsolvable not just in Maryland but across the country.
His proposals span the political spectrum, balancing tax cuts alongside big initiatives.
He cites specific — and potentially costly — ways to achieve his goals: introducing the $15 minimum wage in Maryland two years ahead of schedule; Creation of a “Baby Bonds” program that pays an amount into an account based on family income for each baby born; Transforming Morgan State University into a world-class graduate research institute; directing more government contracts to minority and women-owned businesses; aggressively ending discriminatory home valuations that undervalue black-owned homes; and pouring money into a long-underfunded affordable housing program, among many other details in 15 annotated policy documents on its website.
Maryland voters, tell us what you want to hear from the gubernatorial nominee.
He has outlined in similar detail ideas on climate change, mass transit, education, LGBTQ+ issues, the economy, public safety and civil liberties, saying in a recent interview, “There is a price not to do these things.”
Decisions are being made to “prioritize certain investments,” he said, noting that money is already earmarked to pay for some elements of his platform. For others, he plans to work with lawmakers and local leaders to “invest” (he doesn’t). use the word spend) in the programs and would likely use some of the state surplus, federal funds and discretionary state funds.
He said he doesn’t expect to increase taxes.
“For our state to win, we must become more competitive and also more equitable,” Moore said. “Gone should be the days of people working and in some cases holding multiple jobs and still living below the poverty line. That’s a vacation nobody [behind] Agenda,” referring to his political slogan and an idea he rooted in his military service in Afghanistan.
However, his political philosophy is more of a convener than a progressive ideologue. In the interview, he said he wanted to consider abolishing inheritance or inheritance tax because the state might not need both he wants Maryland to become more attractive to retirees.
His Trump-backed Republican opponent, Del. Dan Cox, refers to him as a “socialist,” a label Moore rejects, citing his military service and stint as an investment banker on Wall Street.
At the age of 28, Moore described himself in an interview as “probably one of the more independent people you will ever find. … I am a social moderate, a strong fiscal conservative. … I have a little bit of Democrat in me and a little bit of Republican in me.”
Sixteen years later, the former Rhodes Scholar and George W. Bush White House Fellow said he had reformulated his position on tax issues. “I am fiscally responsible,” he said.
Still, liberal and moderate Democrats say they desperately want Moore. Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) said the caucus doesn’t have specific policies waiting in the wings, they need a Democratic governor to enact them. But since Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has been in office for the past eight years, Ferguson said the Democrat-controlled General Assembly has been able to address few complex, systemic issues. With Moore, Ferguson said, that changes.
“We are able to address big issues that we I don’t have the answers right now,” Ferguson said of the prospect of a Moore administration working with a Democratic legislature. “…We can start making bigger plans.”
Moore said his agenda and approach as a convener meant that “everyone’s voice should be heard. I don’t believe in the idea that when I walk into a room I should ask people to secede from their political party.”
Dan Cox was a backbench Md. legislator. Then the pandemic struck.
While Moore received the approval of the teachers’ union and many members of the establishment during elementary school, he was not the choice of most unions or other progressive groups. (He has since gained her support.)
He has promised to collect data and ideas from lawmakers, members of the public, private and nonprofit sectors, and that includes, he said, people with whom he may not necessarily agree.
Much to the chagrin of some liberal members of the Democratic Party, Moore said that includes giving a seat at the table to the state Fraternal Order of Police, whose endorsement he received after his first victory.
“I don’t think you can seriously implement reforms unless the agencies that are being reformed are part of the process,” Moore said, adding that he was telling the organization the same thing he had previously said about the police: “We need one.” Police acting with appropriate intensity and with absolute integrity and full accountability.”
Zakiya Sankara Jabar, co-founder of Racial Justice Now, a parent-run grassroots organization in Montgomery County, said she knew she didn’t believe Moore represented a progressive agenda after learning early in elementary school that she wasn’t decided against police officers in schools.
“He sounds a lot like President Biden during his State of the Union address,” Shankara Jabar said when discussing policing. “It’s disappointing. … The problem is that the other side is worse.”
Sankara Jabar said she doesn’t see people in her organization who are overly enthusiastic about Moore. Members of other progressive groups, more dependent on the establishment, grumble quietly, she said. “I think the motivation is more that we can’t let this other guy that Trump backed in,” she said.
But Jared Schablein, an ardent supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders in his 2016 presidential run and one of the founders of the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus, said he trusts Moore on issues important to the progressive movement — jobs that provide a viable wage and a provide accessible health care and schools where teachers are highly paid and students learn skills that prepare them for college or a career.
Moore’s poverty alleviation plan includes free preschool education for every child in need, greater investment in apprenticeship and trade programs, a more diverse teaching pool, and closing the racial wealth gap by, among other things, addressing the “unfair valuation scores in past marginalized neighborhoods” and “repairing the broken ones.” Procurement Policies” affecting minority businesses trying to secure government contracts.
Moore said his tenure at the nonprofit Robin Hood Foundation, where he was executive director, shaped his commitment to tackling child poverty. The rate of children living in poverty varies widely in Maryland, from more than 1 in 4 children in Baltimore City and Somerset County on the East Coast to just over 1 in 20 children in Howard and Calvert counties, according to 2020 data Annie B. Casey Foundation.
Wes Moore beats Dan Cox 10-1 in Maryland governor race
He sees an intersection between himself and his plans to expand transportation, increase affordable housing, and improve public education, among other things.
Cheryl Bost, the president of the Maryland Education Association, which supported Moore in elementary school, said teachers were thrilled to know they would have a public education governor in Annapolis in Moore.
Bost said Gov. Larry Hogan (R) never met with the MSEA in his eight years in office. “With Wes Moore as governor and Aruna Miller as lieutenant governor, educators will have a voice at the table. We saw that through the campaign. … Our members have met and talked to Wes and they see that come out in speeches or as part of his platform. So you say he listens to what we say.”
Moore said he plans to work with lawmakers on what he called the state’s “flip tax system.” … We must make sure that people pay their share, their fair wages, when it comes to taxes …
“I intend to do this in partnership with local jurisdictions and legislatures,” he said. “It’s not really easy, but I know it can be done, and that’s how we’re going to think about our government.”
House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore), who routinely stays out of primary contests, backed Moore in the spring because she said he “gets it.” She said she took his background into account and asked herself, “What does the state need?”
Jones, who is the first black person and first woman to serve as chair of the Legislature, said Moore, who could become Maryland’s first black governor, was a candidate who used his own experience and the experiences of others to do so help guide him to political positions.
“I’ve met different people and they told me ABC, but their body language and facial expressions tell me XYZ,” she said. “I can validate your character if I have a one-on-one.”
But Moore’s comprehensive approach to systemic problems could face headwinds in a legislature where policy changes in the areas of the environment, criminal justice and education often come at a slower pace than before other democratic strongholds.
“Incrementalism is disrespectful to the families who continue to suffer under the burden of poverty, inequality and failed policies,” he said.
On the campaign trail, Moore often tells the story of how he lost his father at age 3 when he died because he did not receive proper medical care, and how his mother got her first welfare job when he was a teenager.
“I would be disrespectful to my own history if I somehow thought I was trying to govern and be an incrementalist,” he said.