Maryland’s First Black Governor Gives Democrats Hope After a Biden White House

Wes Moore takes office this week as the nation’s third Black state executive

As Democrats wring their hands about who might run — and win — once Joe Biden leaves office, Maryland Governor-elect Wes Moore emerges as if he were created in a political lab: a person of color who rose from poverty and served in combat. A Rhodes scholar and best-selling author on Oprah Winfrey’s radar. And through his work on Wall Street and the Robin Hood Foundation, he boasts a network of celebrity and hedge fund contacts.

Moore has another trick up his sleeve. He embraces traditional Republican issues such as crime and the economy, a tactic that led him to the statehouse and offers his party a national blueprint for success. Moore scored a blowout November victory over Donald Trump-backed Republican Dan Cox to become the state’s first Black chief executive and just the third African-American ever elected governor.

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“We went all around the state, even in places that weren’t Democratic areas. We went out and we talked about the importance of patriotism, not because it was the thing to talk about, because most people were not,” Moore said in an interview. “I talked about it because it was personal and added a measure of an element of urgency to why we needed people to take this moment very seriously,” he noted in a nod to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

“And people responded,” he added.

He also amassed a $14 million war chest sprinkled with the kind of names that boosts political careers. Winfrey cut an ad for him. His donor list includes hedge fund billionaires Paul Tudor Jones and Steven Cohen; Netflix Inc. co-founder Reed Hastings, Miguel and Jacklyn Bezos, the parents of Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, as well as entertainers Samuel L. Jackson and Gwyneth Paltrow. 

Moore is reminiscent of another governor of a small Southern state — Bill Clinton, like Moore a Rhodes scholar who rose to the presidency with a similar strategy of turning Republican-favored ideas into Democratic-sounding themes. And the comparisons to the first Black US president, Barack Obama, are unavoidable.

”I think it’s important for all of us to be unapologetic. I think it’s important for all of us to be ourselves,” Moore said about discussing largely conservative themes like patriotism.

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