Wes Moore, whose life story has included stints as an entrepreneur, nonprofit CEO and bestselling author, claimed victory in the Democratic primary for governor Saturday, taking him one step closer to the forefront of Maryland politics in his first elected candidacy Government office.
The Associated Press called the area code for Moore at 11 p.m. Friday, but Moore waited until late Saturday afternoon to acknowledge the win, waiting for his closest competitor, former US Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, to relent.
“Thank you, not only for your votes, but for the votes of confidence,” Moore said Saturday at his campaign’s Madison Avenue outpost in West Baltimore to a room full of cheering supporters.
As of Saturday afternoon, the Maryland State Board of Elections showed Moore with 33.77%, Perez with 28.34%, State Comptroller Peter Franchot with 21.47% and seven other Democratic candidates dividing up the rest. Franchot conceded on Friday.
In his concession statement Saturday, which came around 3:30 p.m., Perez, who also served as Maryland Labor secretary and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, promised Moore and his running mate, the former Del. Aruna Miller ( D-Montgomery).
“Congratulations to Wes Moore and Aruna Miller on their hard-fought win,” said Perez. “Now is the time to unite us and I look forward to aggressively working with them to turn Maryland blue this November.”
Moore is now heading to a general election with Republican candidate Del. Dan Cox, an archconservative who parroted former President Trump’s claim that the 2020 White House election was stolen. Some Republican leaders — most notably Governor Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., who backed Cox’s main opponent of the GOP, former Secretary of Commerce Kelly Schulz — have sought to distance themselves from Cox. Hogan, who has branded Cox “a QAnon junk job,” predicted earlier this week that Cox might not win the general election.
Moore wasted no time in drawing contrasts between himself and Cox.
“The choice couldn’t be clearer,” he said, accusing Cox of fueling division and promoting “a cynical politics of conspiracy theories and fear.”
The fall campaign pits a political novice against a first-term lawmaker with few legislative accomplishments in a race favored by Democrats to win. But the Democrats, desperate to retake Hogan’s government building after eight years, must contend with overconfidence and national political headwinds that could give Republicans a boost.
Moore promised that Democrats would not take the general election for granted.
“That makes a certain sense [Cox] hasn’t been taken seriously in the past,” he said. “I will take my opponent very seriously.”
Although this is his first campaign for office, Moore assembled an experienced campaign team and received steady support from a number of elected officials, including US House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, both Chairmen of the General Assembly, former Governor Parris Glendening, and Angela Alsobrooks, Chief Executive of Prince George’s County; Steuart Pittman, Chief Executive of Anne Arundel County; and Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger and Kweisi Mfume. He also raised significantly more money than other candidates.
Two dozen elected officials attended Moore’s victory celebration, including Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott (D), who remained neutral during the gubernatorial primary, and Del. Brooke Lierman (D-Baltimore City), the newly minted Democratic nominee for state controller. Ruppersberger, Alsobrooks and Miller addressed Moore.
Moore, 43, was born in Takoma Park and lived in the Washington, DC area, but his family’s fortunes took a turn for the worse when his father died of an undiagnosed illness when Moore was 3 years old. His family later moved to the Bronx, and after struggling through, Moore eventually went to military school and served in the Army. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University, became a Rhodes Scholar, founded an educational company in Baltimore, and eventually became CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, a New York-based anti-poverty organization.
On Saturday, Moore reiterated his central campaign theme that he plans to lift Marylanders from all economic stations. Noting his family’s economic struggles growing up, he said: “I’ve seen the consequences of a society that leaves too many people behind. I don’t need a whitepaper to explain it. I lived it.”
Moore had previously been asked to run for office – for both Baltimore mayor and Congress after the death of the late US Rep. Elijah Cummings (D) – but turned down those requests. When he announced his run for governor in June 2021, he said he was moved to run this time because of the unequal devastation caused by COVID-19 in Maryland.
Moore argued throughout the campaign that while he was seeking the Democratic nomination against several veteran officers, he had the broadest experience and was best equipped to meet the state’s challenges.
On Saturday, he paid tribute to his defeated main Democratic opponents and assured that he would need their help to defeat the Republicans.
“We have good relationships with the other people who ran for governor and we know we will work with them,” Moore said. “We need them now. We need them in November. And we will need them beyond that.”
Moore would become Maryland’s first black governor if elected, and his lieutenant governor, Miller, would become the first lieutenant governor of Asian descent and the second woman to hold the position.
“We didn’t come into this race to make history,” Moore said. “We took part in this race to make child poverty history. We entered this race to make educational inequality history.”