With names like Oprah, Spike Lee, Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden lending support, the Wes Moore campaign enjoyed the type of star power never before seen in Maryland’s gubernatorial history.
This week, during Moore’s historic inauguration as the state’s first Black governor, expect a slew of national journalists, high-powered politicians and even a Bravo star or two to celebrate Gov.-elect Moore.
Although Moore’s campaign has only divulged the names of those who have firm confirmations — they won’t even discuss the possibility of rumored attendees — the list reveals a number of familiar names.
So far, the list of notables the campaign shared with The Baltimore Banner include: Chelsea Clinton; former President and Director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Sherrilyn Ifill; journalist April Ryan; podcaster and commentator Bakari Sellers; former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder; former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is also an advisor to Moore; Jaime Harrison, chairman of the Democratic National Committee; and former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial.
The list of Maryland luminaries is also long: Hall of Fame baseball player Cal Ripken Jr.; outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan and first lady Yumi Hogan; former Governors Parris Glendening and Martin O’Malley; former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele; and former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke. Moore’s former rivals in the gubernatorial primary, Rushern Baker and Tom Perez, are also confirmed to attend the ball, according to the Moore administration.
Entertainers such as Grammy Award-winner Maxwell and R&B singer-songwriter Raheem DeVaughn will perform at the gala. DJ D-Nice, and DJ Quicksilva will also perform at the event, known as the People’s Ball.
Moore is well known for his once-frequent appearances on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and he hosted a show on Oprah’s television network.
The attention Moore has received from celebrities and on the national stage is unlike anything Maryland has experienced before, according to Mileah Kromer, an associate professor of political science and the director of the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher College
“It’s unique to Wes Moore,” Kromer said. “Ben Jealous got some attention in 2018 with Dave Chappelle. But Dave Chappelle is not Oprah. Oprah is in a different stratosphere.”
Kromer believes Moore’s past philanthropic, nonprofit work, the fact that he is a bestselling author, and potential presidential buzz have contributed to the national attention. But that will also come at a cost — additional scrutiny.
“Every move he makes — the big moves, novel policies and ideas — will be under a microscope or a national lens. More so than if Peter Franchot or Tom Perez had won,” Kromer said. “It’s not like Wes Moore is asking for the national attention, but it’s going to come.”
Dia Simms, who is president of the Lebron James-backed tequila brand Lobos 1707 and a longtime friend of the soon-to-be first lady, Dawn Flythe Moore, will be in attendance.
In addition to being “historic” and “inspiring,” Simms said that Marylanders and notables will attend the swearing-in ceremony and ball for many of the same reasons that the country was captivated by Barack Obama.
“We’re all mesmerized by the snapshot of a future world,” Simms said. “He represents a glimmer of hope and light. We’re all having that magnetic response to that light. It really does offer us a path to the bright future we all believe in as proud Americans.”
In the weeks leading up to the inauguration, Baltimore has been abuzz with suspicions over which notables would make an appearance at any of Moore’s events. Names like Oprah, who hosted a virtual fundraiser for Moore; filmmaker Spike Lee, who hosted a fundraiser for Moore in Martha’s Vineyard; and record executive Kevin Liles, a native Baltimorean. Barack and Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi have all been swirling in the speculative chatter.
“At this point we’re not in a position to confirm any more names as the guest list continues to develop,” said Moore spokesperson Connor Lounsbury. “It’s going to be a momentous occasion that will make Marylanders proud as we come together to make the peaceful transition of power.”
Moore has certainly attracted support from cast members of Bravo’s hit show “Real Housewives of Potomac.”
Cast member Wendy Osefo also hosted a fundraiser for Moore during the campaign. Cast members Gizelle Bryant and Robyn Dixon also hosted a fundraiser for Moore, and congratulated him after his election win during their “Reasonably Shady” podcast. On the podcast, Dixon said she has known Moore for years, going back to playing high school basketball at McDonogh School with Moore’s younger sister. The two said they were excited about Moore’s win. Bryant, who described Moore’s “Obama-esque” personality, went as far as to predict he will eventually occupy the White House as president.
Lounsbury could not confirm if the three “Real Housewives” cast members were scheduled to attend any of Moore’s inaugural events.
One cast member who is scheduled to attend the ball is Karen Huger, who will be a guest of ball attendees — and local businesswomen — Keisha McClain and Robyn Murphy, the pair confirmed.
Although the inauguration ceremony and party — like the campaign trail — will feature plenty of star power, it is unknown if the Moore administration will tap into these big names or how they will factor into his policies during the next four years.
But Moore should put up “blinders” when it comes to all of the national notables that have flocked to his support, according to former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who in 1989 became the first African American elected governor in the U.S.
“They’re [celebrities] here today, but will they be there tomorrow when you make a mistake? When you disappoint them? When polls reflect that?” said Wilder, whose inauguration attracted a number of notables and media attention. He was sworn in by retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. Jesse Jackson, Vernon Jordan and former boxing world champion Muhammad Ali also attended Wilder’s inauguration events.
“He is the governor. Not the people around him,” Wilder said. “The governor has strong power. He’ll be able to move Maryland ahead, the people ahead and America ahead.”
Wilder, who is now a distinguished professor at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University, said we should not lose sight of the monumental impact of Moore ascending to the governorship. Nationally, Moore is the nation’s fifth Black governor and only the third elected to the position.
“It is an awesome opportunity. For a Black person to be elected to head up the state, it is huge,” Wilder said. “As he moves to be the governor, it is not for Wes Moore, it is not for Black people and brown people. It is for everybody — even the people who did not vote for you. He has a bright future and I wish him all the success in the world.”
Kromer doubts that the national attention and star following will influence the way Moore will govern.
“Typically, celebrities — unless there is a particular issue — you usually don’t see them at a state level,” she said. “I don’t expect that you will hear much from the celebrities that donated and supported him. The campaign is over. Now we are moving forward to the business of the state.”
“It’s not like celebrities endorsed Wes Moore because they wanted something from Wes Moore,” Kromer added. “It’s because they liked what he had to say. And because he built relationships with these people.”
Ultimately, Moore’s future political success will be linked to the job performance he does as governor.
“You can’t take the next step unless you do this well,” Kromer said. “If he has national ambitions, he has to do a good job as governor of Maryland. He cannot skip that step.”