BALTIMORE— Wes Moore, a best-selling author, Rhodes Scholar, and Afghan war veteran who has never held elected office, was chosen Tuesday as the 63rd governor of Maryland and the first African American to hold the state’s highest office.
“What an amazing night and an improbable journey,” Moore said. “I am grateful to everyone for your hard work to make tonight happen.
“We will protect abortion rights and access and empower women to make decisions about their reproductive health.”
Moore left a nearly $1-million-a-year job in New York City last year to run for governor and defeated Republican nominee Dan Cox.
He is the first Democratic candidate to be elected to the position since Martin O’Malley won reelection in 2010. Moore, whose last job was as head of the Robin Hood Foundation, succeeds Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
Moore officially takes office in January and will look to accomplish an ambitious legislative agenda.
His pledges include providing free pre-kindergarten to all Maryland children, expunging criminal records for those convicted of marijuana possession, acceleration of projects to improve water quality and cut carbon emissions, and raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 by 2023, instead of 2025.
Moore says he will use tax revenue following the legalization of recreational cannabis to fund many of his education and crime initiatives.
Moore also plans to use the state’s reported $2 billion budget surplus to revive defunct state departments and fill many job vacancies within multiple departments. He has already stated his desire to bring back The Governor’s Office for Children, which is currently part of the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth, and Victims Services.
All of this, Moore says, is part of a push to provide support for often forgotten Marylanders who have been ignored and cast away by previous administrations and legislation.
“My plans, my blueprint is not just for people coming up in urban Maryland, not for people only on the eastern shore. It’s not strictly for those who are upper middle class. This is a blueprint for every single person in Maryland.” Moore said.
Moore must first get his plans approved by the state’s General Assembly.
Del Darryl Barnes, D-Prince George’s, the House Deputy Majority Whip and chairman of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus, said he believes more should be able to get his legislative agenda approved fairly easily.
“I think he’s in a golden position because we have a Democratic House and Senate,” Barnes said. “We’ll be in a great position to get his agenda through.”
Moore was born in Maryland and spent his childhood in Takoma Park, New York City, and Baltimore. He was raised by his mother and grandparents following his father’s death when he was 3-years old.
Moore earned a Rhodes Scholarship and attended the University of Oxford in England. He later volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne, leading soldiers in combat in Afghanistan.
Moore gained celebrity through his best-selling book, “The Other Wes Moore”, which became a New York Times bestseller and was added to Baltimore City Public Schools’ required reading list.
Before his campaign, Moore headed Robin Hood, a non-profit organization that funded and supported efforts to support low-income families and communities.
He served briefly on the board of directors at Green Thumb Industries, one of the nation’s largest cannabis companies with several retail facilities in Maryland. He held more than $1 million in cannabis stock. His connection presented a conflict of interest because, as governor, he appointed all the commission members that monitor cannabis sales and taxes.
Moore also owns thousands of shares amounting to millions of dollars in dozens of companies across different industries, including pharmaceutical, technology, beauty, and retail. He has promised to place his financial holdings in a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest.
Moore took an early lead and held on to win the election, thanks partly to a wildly successful fundraising effort. Early on, Moore outraised his opponent 10 to 1 and held that lead into the race’s final days when he reported more nearly $6 million in campaign funds on hand to just over $500,000 for Cox.
Moore won scores of endorsements and support from various individuals and organizations, labor organizations, the state teachers union, environmentalists, religious groups, and virtually every member of the General Assembly, the state’s legislative body.
He was later endorsed by Vice President Kamala Harris, former President Barack Obama, and President Joe Biden. He held a joint appearance with Moore and other Democrats Monday before Election Day.
He will join the short list of Black men who served as governors in United States history. Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback was acting governor of Louisanna from 1872 to 1873. Douglas Wilder served as governor of Virginia from 1990 to1994. Deval Patrick served two terms as governor of Massachusetts from 2007 to 2015. David Patterson was governor of New York from 2008 to 2010 after then-Gov. Elliot Spitzer resigned.
Moore’s running mate, Lt. Gov.-elect Aruna Miller, also made history as the first immigrant to be elected to statewide office in Maryland. She immigrated from India.
“It speaks to what the state is looking for, ” Barnes said. “These two are history makers not just because of who they represent, but for the plans they have and the changes they will make for Maryland.”
This article was originally published on CNSMaryland.org and is republished with permission.