Ben Jealous’ Democratic primary victory in Maryland on Tuesday night meant there were now two African-American nominees for governor in the U.S. If elected, they would equal the same number of Black governors in what will soon be the nation’s 242-year history.
But there were still three more races to go with Black gubernatorial hopefuls, increasing the chances of both a Black governor being elected and possibly making this year one of the most noteworthy on record for African-Americans in politics. After all, there hasn’t been a Black governor in office since the fateful political year of 2016.
Tuesday’s win advanced Jealous, a former president of the NAACP, to a general election showdown with the incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. And if the past was any indication of the future, Jealous’ chances to become Maryland’s first Black governor were all but guaranteed: not one single governor in the state has been re-elected in 54 years.
Jealous joined Georgia’s Stacey Abrams as the lone two African-American nominees for governor. The duo could become a quintet if three more states vote for the Black candidates in their respective states. Abrams, the first Black woman to ever be nominated for governor, was polling lower than her general election opponent. But she pulled a come-from-behind victory last month, so why not again in November?
Florida voters could push Andrew Gillum through the Democratic primary there in August, and at least one poll has him leading the race. The first Black mayor of Tallahassee has said he’s in favor of bail reform, gun reform and full legalization of marijuana because of the racial disparity of arrests. The Sunshine State’s primary was scheduled for Aug. 28.
It was a bit of a different story in Michigan, though, as neither of the two Black gubernatorial candidates there even registered a blip on the most recent poll. Michigan’s primary was scheduled for Aug. 8.
Perhaps the longest shot of the rest of the Black candidates was Ohio’s Larry Ealy, a former exotic dancer. (Kanye shrug) Ohio goes to the primary polls on Aug. 28.
Illinois’ Tio Hardiman and Maryland’s Rushern Baker each lost their respective gubernatorial bids. Now former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, the first Black person elected to that position, decided against running for a third term and left office in 2015.