Updated – 5:45 p.m. – State Sen. Rich Madaleno has spent more than a decade in the General Assembly working on progressive issues ranging from marriage equality to raising the minimum wage.
On Monday at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, the Kensington Democrat cited that experience as he formally announced his intention to run for Maryland governor in 2018 in a 15-minute speech before about 30 family members and supporters.
“People know me as a policy expert, sometimes even referring to me as a wonk,” Madaleno said. “People know me as a pragmatic, responsible leader on budget issues. They know me as a crusader for civil rights and civil justice, a proud husband and loving father. But what they may not know is I’m running for governor and I’m going to win.”
Madaleno previously declared he would seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination at a May rally for public transportation in Washington, D.C., and has since been campaigning around the state.
On Monday he said he would fully dedicate himself to the governor’s race and would not seek re-election to the state Senate, where he holds a leadership position.
“I’m going to run for governor,” Madaleno said. “I’m not backing down.”
He has served as a state senator representing Kensington-based District 18 since 2007 and currently serves as chair of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, which reviews the state’s $43.5 billion budget. He was the first openly gay member elected to the General Assembly when he won a seat in the House of Delegates in 2002. His resumé also includes seven years as a legislative and budget analyst for Montgomery County.
He played a central role in pushing for the approval of the state’s Civil Marriage Protection Act—the voter-approved referendum that legalized same-sex marriage in 2013.
In the Democratic primary, Madaleno is facing off against several other announced candidates including former NAACP President Ben Jealous, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, Baltimore attorney James Shea and entrepreneur Alec Ross. Other Democrats who may run include Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, former Montgomery County Attorney General Doug Gansler and U.S Rep. John Delaney. They’re all seeking the opportunity to take on Republican incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan in the general election next year. The primary election is in June.
On Monday Madaleno laid out a campaign agenda that will focus on such issues as improving education, protecting health care, fostering an innovation economy and fighting for civil rights.
He chided Republican Gov. Larry for not doing more to protest the effort by Congressional Republicans to replace Obamacare and said about 500,000 Marylanders could lose their healthcare if the proposed U.S. Senate bill is approved.
“When I am governor, no matter what the Republicans in Congress do, Maryland will treat health care as a human right and Maryland will ensure everyone has access to affordable health care,” Madaleno said.
When pressed by a reporter about whether he would use state funds to pay for health care for residents who may be forced off Medicaid by passage of the Republican health care bill, Madaleno responded the state has “a lot of resources and it’s going to be a question of priorities to make that happen.”
Hannah Marr, a spokesperson for Gov. Larry Hogan, later said in an email that Hogan will not support any Congressional effort that would result in Marylanders losing their healthcare coverage.
"The current system needs to be fixed but the proposals that are being considered in Congress do not work for Maryland," Marr said. "Congress should go back to the drawing board in an open, transparent and bipartisan fashion to craft a bill that works for all Americans."
Madaleno also said he supports a $15 minimum wage, with future increases tied to cost of living increases; universal pre-kindergarten; and reducing costs for students at state colleges.
Madaleno, who identifies himself as a progressive, will likely have to set himself apart from Jealous, who is pursuing a national progressive agenda in his campaign by pushing for a single-payer health care system, tuition-free higher education and reform of the criminal justice system.
Last week, Jealous, a former NAACP president who has never held public office, received the endorsement of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at a Silver Spring rally attended by more than 500 people.
When asked about differentiating himself from Jealous, Madaleno urged voters to look at his own record.
“Look at my 15 years in office,” Madaleno said. “Look what I’ve done over and over to get things accomplished for the state. I have fought these progressive battles and I have won time and time again … I have been at the forefront leading the charge.”
The state senator was joined Monday by his husband, Mark Hodge, daughter Katie, 14, and son Jackson, 10 as well as his parents. District 18 Dels. Al Carr and Jeff Waldstreicher also stood by his side and endorsed him at the event.
Dels. Al Carr and Jeffrey Waldstreicher join Rich Madaleno and his family members at his announcement Monday. Credit: Andrew Metcalf
Carr said Madaleno has served as a mentor to him for 15 years and that he would “make a phenomenal governor.”
“This race is wide open, but the fact that there are so many folks in the race goes to show that people think it's winnable,” Waldstreicher said about Madaleno’s chances. “Larry Hogan has not done a good job over the last three years. People are starting to see that. They want someone who's going to stand up for them and Rich is that guy.”
Hogan remains popular in Maryland, boasting an approval rating of 65 percent, according to a March Washington Post-University of Maryland poll.
Madaleno noted that if elected he would be the first Montgomery County resident elected governor. Former governor Martin O’Malley grew up in Montgomery County, but he spent his early political career representing Baltimore. Madaleno grew up in Silver Spring, attended Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda and graduated from Syracuse University in New York.
He noted that teachers at Burnt Mills Elementary School in Silver Spring helped him overcome a speech impediment.
“That Maryland public school literally gave me my voice,” Madaleno said. “This is why I helped craft, implement and protect Maryland’s landmark public school funding plan.”
He added that being from Montgomery County would allow him to focus on the unique needs of the Washington region, although he said he wouldn’t do so at the expense of other jurisdictions in the state.
Joy Lazaroff, a Silver Spring resident, attended the event and said she would vote for Madaleno. She cited his experience as one of his best qualities.
“He genuinely cares about people and that's what I want in my governor,” Lazaroff said. “I think he's progressive with a good grasp of fiscal policy, which is what I think Maryland needs right now with what's happening in Washington, D.C.”