Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore, center, stands next to CASA in Action's Baltimore Regional Director Lydia Walther-Rodriguez at the Immigrant Justice Election Rally held in Wheaton. Credit: Apps Bichu

Highlighting a theme of immigrant unity, roughly 200 people gathered Saturday morning in downtown Wheaton to rally for Democratic candidates running for statewide offices.

The Immigrant Justice Election Rally was organized by CASA in Action, an organization that advocates for Latino, immigrant and working-class communities; Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); the Montgomery County Education Association; Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500; and the United Food and Commercial Workers.

Held at Marian Fryer Plaza on Reedie Drive, the rally highlighted the fact that the candidates would make state history if elected in Tuesday’s general election: Wes Moore as the first Black and immigrant heritage governor, Aruna Miller as the first Indian and immigrant lieutenant governor, Anthony Brown as the first Black attorney general and Brooke Lierman as the first female comptroller.

Moore and Miller are running against Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox and lieutenant governor candidate Gordana Schifanelli. U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown is facing Republican Michael Peroutka in the attorney general race and Lierman, a state delegate, is running against Harford County Executive Barry Glassman for comptroller.

Saturday’s rally drew local politicians including Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, who is running for a second term against Republican Reardon Sullivan, the former chair of the county GOP party.

In a county where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a roughly 4-to-1 margin, Sullivan, who also attended a campaign event Saturday, said in a statement that he believes voters are looking for a change.

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“We’ve been pretty open, meeting with a wide swath of voters, organizations and new constituents all across the County,” Sullivan said. “I recently met with the Latino community, and frankly their support was overwhelming. So many folks are helping me with signing up to work polling sites and putting up signs. Optimism is in the air.”

At the Democrats’ Wheaton rally, decorated with balloons and multinational flags, steel drum performers played as participants danced and cheered for their candidates. Chants of “Si Se Puede” and “Yes we can!” rung in the air as campaigners wearing T-shirts representing their candidates prepared to head out to canvas voters after the event.

Highlighting the rally’s theme, Moore acknowledged his own family’s journey and his grandmother’s legacy of being an immigrant. “She came to this country to build a life and she ended up building a legacy, and so when I looked at this crowd, and I looked at this community, I see my family,” Moore said.

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Moore emphasized the importance of creating economic pathways and making sure people get paid a fair wage. 

He said the voices of immigrants need to be heard and that he planned to advocate for and ensure the right to affordable and accessible health care for everyone.

“We will be a state that understands that winning only works when everybody has a pathway to succeed and not just some … that we will create a pathway for every person to know that in Maryland, you have found a home and … have found a place that will support you, will support your families, will support your dreams, and support your legacy,” Moore said.

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Pia Morrison, president of SEIU Local 500, described Tuesday’s election as “a pivotal moment” to determine the issues that matter most to voters. “What progress do we want to see in our state over the next four years?” she asked the crowd.

In addition to Moore, other candidates also took to the podium to rally voters and share their plans for advocating for immigrant communities and communities of color.

“I am so excited about the work that we could do in the comptroller’s office. This is an office where we need leaders,” Lierman said. “We need a leader who can build big coalitions, like the beautiful coalition that is in front of us, that tackles economic challenges that our families are facing at this stage, closing the racial wealth divide, funding our public schools so that they are worthy of our children and making sure that every Marylander has access to the state programs and benefits that we create.”

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Brown shared with the crowd that he is a first-generation American and that his father left a life of poverty in Jamaica to come to the U.S. and his mother came from Switzerland.

“Both of them [came here] to find an opportunity to raise their family in this great nation, but also like the journey of your family,” Robinson told the crowd. “My family came here to make this country better. America is great because we are America.”

Apps Bichu reports on growth and justice. She can be reached at apps.bichu@bethesdamagazine.com