Is U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey planning to endorse former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous in Maryland’s gubernatorial race?
That’s what Jealous said Monday at a local Democratic Party event in Silver Spring Monday morning.
Montgomery County Council member George Leventhal asked Jealous how he plans to unite the two fractious sides of the state’s Democratic Party—the progressive wing that supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary and the Democrats who voted for Hillary Clinton by a 2-to-1 majority in the Maryland primary.
Booker backed Clinton for president and served as a surrogate for her campaign, while Jealous endorsed Sanders and served as a surrogate for him during the campaign. Sanders endorsed Jealous in Silver Spring in July.
“I’ve received the endorsement of Bernie and in September, I’ll roll out the endorsement of Cory Booker,” Jealous said, then paused for a few seconds. “That’s intentional. It’s to send a signal that we are building a unified campaign.”
He said it pained him to see Democratic Party in-fighting.
“The national election is already over,” Jealous said. “I was the first Bernie surrogate to endorse Hillary. Everything that her campaign asked me to do—I endorsed her on national TV before the [Democratic] convention was gaveled in. I was the first to do so on the stage.
“And frankly, I was the only Bernie surrogate not to get booed when I endorsed Hillary because I’m good at bringing people along and bringing them together and helping them see common interests.”
Booker’s press office did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Bethesda Beat this week about the promised endorsement.
When Bethesda Beat asked if Jealous could elaborate on his comments Tuesday, his campaign said he was unavailable as he participated in a civil disobedience action in Washington, D.C. to protest immigration policies.
An adviser provided a statement, however.
“Ben and Senator Booker remain very close friends and at this time there are no formal plans for the Senator to endorse Ben for governor,” Kevin Harris, a senior adviser, said in a statement. “In the coming weeks we look forward to announcing the support of several leaders and organizations across Maryland who realize that Ben Jealous is the strongest candidate to defeat Larry Hogan and get Maryland back to doing big things again.”
Asked Thursday morning why Jealous said he would have Booker’s endorsement, a campaign spokeswoman wrote in a text message that the campaign had nothing more to add to the statement.
Jealous is running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination against Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Kensington), entrepreneur Alec Ross, Baltimore attorney James Shea and former Obama official Krishanti Vignarajah. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is also widely expected to enter the race.
They’re all seeking the opportunity to run against Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in the 2018 general election.
Booker, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2013, is considered to be a possible Democratic presidential candidate in 2020. In July, he told CNN that he has no plans to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in the next election, but has not decided against it.
Booker became a national figure during his tenure as mayor of Newark, New Jersey, from 2006 to 2013.