As the crowd chanted its support for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous during Tuesday night’s rally at Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club, the scene was reminiscent of a campaign event for former President Barack Obama.
As Jealous, the evening’s final speaker, was midway through his 20-minute speech, the crowd of 1,000 supporters, according to Jealous campaign officials, began chanting “Yes we can,”—a common slogan from Obama’s 2008 campaign.
“Si se puede,” he echoed, saying the phrase in Spanish.
Jealous’s rally, held one week before the Nov. 6 election, included speeches from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent, along with former Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, both of whom ran unsuccessfully in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.
Jealous and his opponent, incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, both made visits to Montgomery County on Tuesday. Hogan spoke at the Montgomery County Business Hall of Fame luncheon at the Universities at Shady Grove earlier that day.
Jealous took aim at his opponent Tuesday night by blaming him for the state’s drop to sixth place in national education rankings earlier this year, as well as the rise in opioid deaths during the last four years. He also accused his opponent of taking money from pharmaceutical companies and the National Rifle Association in the past. Both Jealous and Hogan have embraced some form of gun control, which resulted in Hogan being downgraded by the NRA to a “C.”
In the wake of Saturday’s shooting in Pittsburgh in which a gunman killed 11 congregants at a synagogue, Jealous said he would do everything he could, if elected, to help protect religious groups and houses of worship.
“Let’s be clear that the prayers are with the people of Pittsburgh, but let’s also be very clear that we’ve done enough praying. And we know It’s time for action, so that our loved ones, our neighbors can be safe,” he said.
Sanders, who preceded Jealous, praised the former NAACP leader for championing liberal social policies such as Medicare for all and free community college tuition, which were staples of Sanders’ own campaign two years ago.
“If [President Donald] Trump and his friends can give a trillion-dollar tax break to the top 1 percent, you’re damn well sure we can make public colleges affordable … . We want to have the best-educated people on Earth, not people that are being destroyed by outrageous levels of student debt,” he said.
Sanders also urged attendees to show up at the polls, noting that low turnout in 2014 helped Hogan defeat his Democratic opponent Anthony Brown.
“If there is a low voter turnout this year in Maryland, Larry Hogan will be reelected,” he said.
Sanders and several other speakers at the rally attempted to make comparisons between Hogan and Trump, despite the fact that the governor has largely kept his distance from the president. O’Malley said Hogan helped embrace Trump’s policies by sending National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border this summer, and by not speaking out against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who faced sexual assault allegations during his Senate confirmation hearings last summer.
“Is it enough to say, ‘Oh I’m not as bad as Trump?’ Is that the new standard for ethics in Maryland?” O’Malley said.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org