Wes Moore’s historic win as Maryland’s first Black governor has already had a ripple effect, political insiders and supporters say, by showing that support from professional Black voters and donors can be decisive. Many feel that the victory has rewarded their years of hard work on behalf of Maryland’s Black candidates and created a roadmap for those running in the future.

“It’s a major accomplishment for Blacks in Maryland,” said Karen Miller, a Baltimore-based crisis management consultant and political fundraiser. Miller calls this election a “game changer” in the way that campaigns and politics operate in Maryland. “It might be a blue state, but Black people have not been that empowered.”

Tuesday night’s historic results in Maryland have now put the state on the national map, according to Michael K. Fauntroy, an associate professor of policy and government and director of the Race, Politics, and Policy Center in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.

“Maryland is one of the new hotbeds for Black electoral politics at the statewide level,” he said, also stressing the importance of Anthony Brown becoming the first Black attorney general of Maryland. “For all the talk about Georgia, there is still no statewide leader in Georgia. North Carolina has come close, but it still has not happened. It is becoming to be a thing in Maryland.”

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore celebrates with his family after declaring victory at an Election Night event at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront on Tuesday, November 8. Democratic candidates Wes Moore, Aruna Miller, Chris Van Hollen, Anthony Brown and Brooke Lierman held a combined event beginning at 8 p.m. as the polls closed.
Democrat gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore celebrates with his family after declaring victory at an election night event at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Democratic candidates Wes Moore, Aruna Miller, Chris Van Hollen, Anthony Brown and Brooke Lierman held a combined event beginning at 8 p.m. as the polls closed. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Moore, a 44-year-old first-time candidate, easily defeated Republican state Del. Dan Cox, an ally of former President Donald Trump. Tuesday’s win had a deeper meaning for many Black voters. With Moore’s historic win as the state’s first Black governor, Black people — particularly professional Black people — say they feel seen.

He acknowledged the moment on election night.

“It’s not lost on me that I’ve made a little history here tonight myself,” Moore said in declaring victory. “This is more proof that progress is not inevitable, but progress is possible in the state of Maryland,” Moore said.

Karenthia Barber, chair of the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee, thinks Moore’s victory ensures that Black professionals are no longer taken for granted or ignored.

“[Moore’s victory] highlights the fact that Black professionals are engaged and committed to making a difference in all areas, including business, education, philanthropy and politics,” she said. “This should be a wake up call for all — including political leaders — to acknowledge and develop meaningful relationships with this growing and very influential voting base.”

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While Moore’s success was the result of a slew of factors — the ability to inspire all voters to support him, the changing demographics around the state, and the weakness of his opponent — Fauntroy said that Moore’s support by Black professionals is of note.

“Maryland, more so than any state in the country, has a very high proportion of hyper-educated Black professionals. Ideologically, it is a state that lines up very well for Wes Moore,” he said. “That group of voters can certainly claim a hand in that victory.”

Fauntroy specifically referenced Montgomery, Prince George’s, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties as areas where growth in the Black professional classes has resulted in support from white voters who are now “comfortable” voting for Black candidates.

“The lesson here is as the demographics change, you see an expansion in the ecosystem of Black candidates who can win,” he said.

Moore, a Rhodes scholar, author of a bestselling book, veteran of the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, founder of an education company and former leader a large nonprofit foundation, had the support of the unions representing teachers, police officers and state government workers. In addition, he attracted the support of celebrities like Lee and Oprah Winfrey, who hosted an online fundraiser for him in June, and the endorsements of former President Barack Obama and current Vice President Kamala Harris.

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Karen Miller, a political fundraiser, poses for a portrait outside her waterfront office on the Harbor. Miller has worked for Tom Perez’s campaign as well as for Antonio Hayes and Shannon Sneed. (Paul Newson)

“When we [Black people] put our foot down and we commit to a candidate, and we stay strong and put our money behind it, we are successful,” said Miller, who has been a political fundraiser since 2010. She worked for Democratic candidate Tom Perez in the gubernatorial primary. “We can now say we have money and we don’t have to be as concerned with bowing down to entities that we do not necessarily agree with.”

Miller said she was referencing past years in which Black candidates saw the key to their political success through funding from white developers.

“I think this will change the dynamics greatly,” Miller said. “They no longer have to say this is the way to victory.”

Tuesday, Moore overwhelmingly won in Baltimore City (88%) and Prince George’s (88%), Charles (65%), , and Baltimore counties (58%) — all with established affluent Black communities.

Barber said she looks forward to a successful administration under Moore where he will hopefully continue to raise his national profile.

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“Wes Moore is the future of the Democratic Party, and his victory is the beginning of what I believe will be the first stop on his political journey,” she said. “His unique background and path to victory is an inspiration for all, but particularly Black and brown people who have political aspirations.”

Valerie Fraling said she spent most of Tuesday fighting back tears of joy knowing that Maryland had elected its first Black governor. But when she watched Moore and his family on stage in a Harbor East ballroom after the room heard the announcement that he won the election, she could no longer hold in the emotion.

“When you have been committed in the beginning and people doubted Wes with comments like ‘Wes who?’ or ‘He has no experience,’ or wanted you to support their candidates, I’m overwhelmed with emotions,” she said. “I think that Black professionals will feel accomplished. They can see themselves in him. I think they felt finally that their votes counted and they will finally have a chance to be at the head of the table.”

The 73-year-old Randallstown retiree is part of a group of Black Marylanders who organized and contributed like never before to elect Moore. Fraling proudly states that she was one of his early supporters. She attended Moore’s fundraiser this summer at Spike Lee’s home in Martha’s Vineyard, where tickets ranged up to $6,000.

Valerie Fraling, a retiree from Randallstown who attended a fundraiser at Spike Lee’s home in Martha’s Vineyard this summer. (Courtesy of Valerie Fraling)

Jackie Washington, a real estate developer based in Baltimore City, said she was “excited” to see what Moore does for the state — especially through his advocacy for small and women- and minority-owned businesses.

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“I know that he is type of person to do the detailed work to move the state forward. Especially in this economy, the state has some challenging times ahead and he is the right person to [steer] the ship,” said Washington, who went to Moore’s fundraiser this summer at Lee’s home.

Throughout the campaign, Washington said she was particularly impressed by the different types of people who were inspired to participate in the political process.

“There were people I know who have never been involved in the political process, but because of Wes and his politics, he was able to attract a new group into becoming interested in politics,” she said. “He was supported by people in all walks of life through donating and volunteering. That’s a wonderful thing.”

Moore’s support by Black voters was not a given. The possibility of making history did not sway Fraling or Washington to vote for Black gubernatorial candidates in the past.

Washington, a registered Democrat, said she voted for Brown in 2014 but not Ben Jealous in 2018 when she voted for Republican candidate Larry Hogan.

“You have to vote for who you think has the most experience and who can bring the most to the job and who has the ability to start working from day one,” Washington said.

Fraling didn’t vote for either Brown or Jealous in past gubernatorial elections.

“I was a great supporter of Anthony Brown. I just didn’t feel like Anthony was ready. Not at all. I didn’t think he knew the people,” she recalled. “I liked Ben Jealous. But at that time I had already committed myself to Hogan.”

But Moore was different, Fraling said.

Moore reminds Black people of themselves — with an Obama-like ability to relate to people, according to Fraling.

“You can have a conversation with Wes about a football game or the latest topic on MSNBC. He’s able to join in the conversation. He’s able to offer concrete solutions and ideas. And he’s also able to do it in a warm way,” Fraling said. “And that puts him in a position where everyone embraces him.”

johnj.williams@thebaltimorebanner.com

John-John Williams IV is a diversity, equity and inclusion reporter at The Baltimore Banner. A native of Syracuse, N.Y. and a graduate of Howard University, he has lived in Baltimore for the past 17 years.

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