San­ders group stirs up in­ter­nal dis­sent

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - MARY­LAND BY OVETTA WIG­GINS ovetta.wig­gins@wash­post.com Josh Hicks con­trib­uted to this re­port.

The Mary­land arm of Our Rev­o­lu­tion, a na­tional pro­gres­sive group led by U.S. Sen. Bernie San­ders (I-Vt.), wants to en­dorse for­mer board mem­ber Ben Jeal­ous in the 2018 Mary­land gover­nor’s race with­out in­ter­view­ing any of the other de­clared or likely can­di­dates.

Lead­ers of Our Rev­o­lu­tion Mary­land say they asked all the can­di­dates to par­tic­i­pate in a ques­tion­naire and fo­rum, but were turned down by ev­ery­one ex­cept Jeal­ous and are mov­ing for­ward with their en­dorse­ment process.

Chair­man Bob Muehlenkamp sent an email to Our Rev­o­lu­tion sup­port­ers Fri­day that said chap­ter lead­ers unan­i­mously want to sup­port Jeal­ous in his quest to de­feat sev­eral other Democrats and chal­lenge pop­u­lar in­cum­bent Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R)— a con­test that should be a key test of the strength of the back­lash against Pres­i­dent Trump in Mary­land.

The Mary­land group would also work to get San­ders’s na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion to en­dorse the Bal­ti­more civil rights leader, the email said.

“We will use this gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion to con­tinue to build the in­de­pen­dent grass­roots po­lit­i­cal move­ment Bernie San­ders is lead­ing so we can elect pro­gres­sive can­di­dates up and down the bal­lot,” Muehlenkamp wrote. “This will also be the next step in Our Rev­o­lu­tion Mary­land nom­i­nat­ing Ben for the en­dorse­ment of Our Rev­o­lu­tion Na­tional, which will make avail­able mas­sive or­ga­niz­ing power and other re­sources.”

Aides to some of Jeal­ous’s ri­vals for the nom­i­na­tion said they were not happy with Our Rev­o­lu­tion’s ac­tions, with at least one com­par­ing the en­dorse­ment process to the way the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee co­a­lesced around Hil­lary Clin­ton’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial bid, with­out re­gard for San­ders’s surg­ing pop­u­lar­ity.

“A lot of Bernie San­ders’ sup­port­ers — and I was a Bernie San­ders sup­porter — were un­happy with the lack of trans­parency in the DNC process,” said Wal­ter Lud­wig, a spokesman for the gu­ber­na­to­rial cam­paign of state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Mont­gomery), who like Jeal­ous is a pro­gres­sive hop­ing to draw sup­port from lib­eral Democrats. “This is no more trans­par­ent.”

Aides to sev­eral other de­clared or likely can­di­dates de­clined to com­ment on the record, to avoid a po­ten­tial rift with Jeal­ous’s sup­port­ers. Speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymity, how­ever, they said they found it strange that Our Rev­o­lu­tion wanted to en­dorse so early in the process, be­fore all the ex­pected can­di­dates had launched their cam­paigns.

They also ques­tioned why the group sent ques­tion­naires to mul­ti­ple hope­fuls, even though its own for­mer board mem­ber was run­ning. Kevin Har­ris, a spokesman for Jeal­ous, said Jeal­ous re­signed from the state and na­tional boards of Our Rev­o­lu­tion be­fore start­ing his gu­ber­na­to­rial cam­paign.

A se­nior aide to one ri­val said Our Rev­o­lu­tion did not re­spond when his team reached out to the group in June to get a bet­ter sense of how its fo­rum and en­dorse­ment process would work. The cam­paign ul­ti­mately de­cided that its can­di­date should not par­tic­i­pate in the fo­rum, the aide said.

Andrew Malli­noff, cam­paign man­ager for Prince Ge­orge’s County Ex­ec­u­tive Rush­ern L. Baker III, said the cam­paign re­quested more time to fill out the lengthy ques­tion­naire and asked for the fo­rum to be held later in the sum­mer. He said he does not re­call get­ting a re­sponse from Our Rev­o­lu­tion. Baker an­nounced his can­di­dacy June 21, three days be­fore the Our Rev­o­lu­tion fo­rum.

Muehlenkamp said his group sent an email to can­di­dates on May 19, and its mem­bers fol­lowed up with all of those who did not re­spond.

“The only per­son who filled out the ques­tion­naire and said he would at­tend the fo­rum was Ben Jeal­ous,” Muehlenkamp said.

He said that Jeal­ous is “ob­vi­ously bet­ter known by more of our ac­tive sup­port­ers . . . but many of our peo­ple know the other can­di­dates too” and wanted to pro­vide each can­di­date an op­por­tu­nity to share his agenda.

Har­ris said Jeal­ous has not re­ceived an of­fi­cial en­dorse­ment and “it’s up to [Our Rev­o­lu­tion] to run the process how they see fit.”

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