John B. King, Jr

Democrat

John King illustration

(John Baker for The Baltimore Banner)

(John Baker for The Baltimore Banner)

  • Age: 47  
  • Resides: Silver Spring
  • Experience: Educator, state education commissioner and U.S. education secretary. Bachelor’s in government from Harvard, Master’s from Columbia University Teachers College. Law degree from Yale, Doctor of Education in educational administrative practice from Columbia University Teachers College. Taught high school social studies. Managing director of Uncommon Schools, public charter school organization. Education commissioner of New York, 2011-2015. Acting U.S. deputy secretary of education, 2015-2016. U.S. secretary of education, 2016-2017. On leave as president of the Education Trust. 
  • Personal: Married to Melissa Steel King with two daughters
  • Candidate website
  • Read The Baltimore Banner's profile of John King
  • Read more election coverage

Running mate:

Michelle Siri

  • Age: 45 
  • Resides: Cockeysville
  • Experience: Attorney. Bachelor’s in religion from William & Mary, 1999; law degree from University of Maryland, 2002. Assistant Maryland attorney general, 2008-2014. Executive director of the Women’s Law Center of Maryland, 2015-present.  
  • Personal: Married with two sons

Questionnaire:

Jump to key issues:

Do you support the financial and policy requirements of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (Also known as the Kirwan recommendations)?

Yes.

As a public school parent and former secretary of education under Obama I know the Blueprint is the floor, not the ceiling. I will expand on it and close equity gaps. I am the only candidate who has outlined how I will pay for the Blueprint, with progressive tax reform that will have multimillionaires and large corporations pay their fair share. I will also implement the starting salary for teachers of $60,000 ahead of the mandate, increase the salaries of our education support professionals, and invest in universal pre-K as well as universal affordable childcare [from] birth-5 years.

Do you believe that parents have adequate input into public school curriculum choices?

Yes.

I know Republicans in this race have been trying to make education a “parents’ rights” issue as an excuse to fearmonger about “critical race theory” and LGBTQ+ rights. I believe we must teach history accurately — including the hard parts of our history like slavery, segregation, or Japanese-American internment — and teach students to respect all people of different backgrounds, including race and LGBTQ status. Parents have many avenues to provide input to educators and school districts — and educators know that we need parents as our partners in ensuring student success.  

Are you satisfied with the ways Maryland schools teach the history of Indigenous, Black, Latino, Asian or other communities of color and systemic racism?

No.

We can always improve on teaching the history of communities of color and systemic racism in this country. I was disappointed that legislation requiring the Maryland Board of Education to create content standards for American history courses to cover the histories of Black Americans, Native Americans, AAPI [Asian American and Pacific Islanders] and Latino Americans did not pass.  As a former high school social studies teacher, I look forward to partnering with the legislature to enable educators, parents, scholars, and community leaders to work together to ensure all Maryland students are exposed to diversity across the curriculum

Does the governor have a role in reducing the level of violence and crime in our communities?

Yes.

We must reimagine public safety. The state should act immediately to improve oversight of parole, probation and home detention, and to strengthen collaboration with local leaders. We need a “policing-plus” model that focuses police on stopping the flow of illegal guns and investigating violent crime, while simultaneously providing real investment in communities. We need substantial investment in addiction treatment, mental health services, violence intervention programs, reentry programs that break the cycle of incarceration, rec centers, summer jobs for teens and apprenticeship programs.

Do you support efforts to reform or restructure the ways policing is funded?

Yes.

I believe funding needs to be prioritized for protecting us from violent crime. Policing is crucial to ending the flow of illegal guns and investigating violent crime. However, new dollars should supplement policing with investment in crisis intervention teams, mental health supports, addiction treatment and recovery resources, violence prevention programs, reentry programs, etc. For example, Baltimore already has one of the highest per capita ratios of officers to citizens in the country. Progress in Baltimore — and throughout the state — requires a “policing-plus” approach. 

Do you support efforts by state’s attorneys to reduce or eliminate prosecution of nonviolent or low-level offenses?

Yes.

Maryland has the embarrassing distinction of leading the country in its incarceration of Black men. The bulk of these are for nonviolent offenses. Reducing prosecution of nonviolent offenses is a racial equity issue, as overpolicing has  been used as a tool to disproportionately target Black communities and criminalize them. We need to reimagine public safety and look at reducing recidivism, which means reevaluating how many resources we spend on nonviolent and low-level offenses and focusing instead on investment in addiction treatment, mental health services, reentry programs, etc.

Would you propose changes to Maryland’s gun control laws?

Yes.

Maryland’s next step on gun safety is child access and safe storage laws, making it harder for children to get their hands on guns. I will also pursue passing legislation in Maryland similar to legislation we’ve seen introduced in New York and California allowing people to file lawsuits against assault weapons manufacturers in state courts.

Do you think Maryland is doing enough to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system?

No.

We need to re-imagine public safety. That means we do not keep adding more police, we need to create space for our existing police to focus on violent crime, as described above, and open up education for those who are incarcerated, like the Second Chance Pell Grants (which I launched in the U.S. Department of Education). It means adding counselors rather than SROs [school resource officers] so we can dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline that criminalizes Black children from an early age. Instead, we need to address the impact of trauma, and invest in after-school programs and summer jobs programs. 

Would you invest more state resources in Baltimore?

Yes.

My administration will build the all-rail Red Line in Baltimore, connecting residents across the city to jobs and other opportunities, and dramatically improve bus service. I will support Baltimore in creating its own regional transportation authority, giving it more autonomy over its transportation decisions but without taking away state support. We will invest in Baltimore schools, including fully funding the Blueprint so they have better ventilation and working air conditioning so students are not having their learning interrupted due to heat. 

Do you support changing state tax laws to require high-earning Marylanders and corporations to pay more?

Yes.

What taxes should change?

We need to realign our income tax so that it is no longer regressive, and middle-income earners are not paying disproportionately more than the highest ones. Multimillionaires and large corporations need to pay their fair share. We also need to follow what other states have done and implement combined reporting, so that multi-state corporations cannot move profits around to avoid paying Maryland taxes. I also support closing tax loopholes like the “Country Club” tax break and lowering the exemption on the estate tax. 

How would you spend additional revenue?

I will put additional revenue towards advancing my ambitious climate change agenda, putting it towards building our green energy infrastructure, like wind and solar. We can use additional revenue to increase the incentives necessary to get people to switch to clean energy in their homes, covering the cost of the renovations necessary to accommodate new energy infrastructure. I would also not only put the funding towards the long term needs of the Blueprint, but I would treat that as the floor, not the ceiling, by investing in universal affordable childcare, birth through 5, for all Marylanders.

Are you concerned about the affordability of housing and home ownership in Maryland?

Yes.

First, we need to end single-family-home-only zoning and adopt a state law making it easier to build multifamily housing. Exclusionary zoning dates back to redlining and prevents dense, multifamily housing. Second, I will use our Affordable Housing Trust Fund to its fullest, which we have massively underutilized in Maryland. Third, I will pass legislation like the previously introduced Social Housing Act and strengthen tenant protections by increasing the eviction filing fee for landlords, permanently funding the right to counsel in eviction hearings, and adopting a “just cause” eviction law.

Which of the following public health restrictions would you consider imposing statewide in response to increased coronavirus cases, hospitalizations or deaths?

[Candidate's response in bold.]

  • Vaccine passports
  • Mask mandates
  • Capacity limits
  • None of the above

The next Governor will need to be prepared to tackle either the next wave of COVID or the next public health emergency, and that means being open to all three options and ensuring that local communities have the resources and infrastructure they need to handle these public health crises and the measures they may need to be put in place to keep people safe and healthy.

Would you propose changes to the ways Maryland limits, regulates or funds abortion?

Yes.

Abortion care is health care and health care is a human right. My running mate, Michelle Siri, was board president for Planned Parenthood of Maryland and we will make Maryland a North Star for abortion rights. We support having Medicaid cover abortion for any reason, removing Maryland’s parental notification law for minors seeking an abortion, and a constitutional amendment to protect the right to abortion care. We will protect those who come here from other states for abortion care, and making sure the training created by the ACAA [Abortion Care Access Act] is fully funded so that Maryland has enough abortion providers. 

Do you agree with the scientific consensus that global climate change is influenced by human activities?

Yes.

Yes, climate change is an existential threat that has to be addressed in the most urgent way possible. I am proud to be endorsed by the Sierra Club and Sunrise Movement because I have the boldest climate action plan that will get us to net-zero emissions by 2035, protect the Chesapeake, and ensure environmental justice.

Do you believe that Maryland residents and businesses have a responsibility to reduce their contributions to climate change, which could include greenhouse gas emissions, waste or energy use?

Yes.

What legislation, regulations or other changes would you pursue to require changes?

I will mandate that Maryland has a carbon-free electricity sector by 2030 and that all public buildings and vehicles in the public fleet be 100% electrified from clean energy sources by 2030. My administration will remove biomass and trash incineration from the Renewable Portfolio Standard so they are not receiving renewable energy incentives and update building codes so new construction meets sustainability standards. I will also protect the [Chesapeake] bay by regulating ammonia emissions from poultry farms.

Do you support additional energy production in Maryland?

Yes.

If so, which forms of energy production do you support?

[Candidate’s response in bold.]

  • Wind
  • Offshore wind
  • Natural gas fracking
  • Solar
  • Nuclear
  • Other forms not listed here

I support increasing our energy production with solar, wind and geothermal production. I oppose natural gas fracking and other fossil fuel production. As for nuclear, I believe we must keep Calvert Cliffs operating in order to meet the 2035 net-zero target because its production would be impossible to replace with clean energy options in such a short time frame. However, I do not believe we should add reactors, and that the time it takes to approve and build additional nuclear reactors is incompatible with the time frame we have to prevent climate disaster.

Do you believe that climate change will disproportionately impact poor and minority communities?

Yes.

I support a state constitutional amendment recognizing everyone has the right to a clean environment. I will implement the recommendations from the Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities that have been largely ignored and ensure government agencies take a proactive approach to environmental justice when drafting new rules and policies, while making sure stakeholders from front-line and fence-line communities have a role in decision making.

Do you plan to vote IN FAVOR of the statewide ballot question to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana?

Yes.

It is past time in Maryland to legalize adult cannabis use. Even under decriminalization, cannabis charges are disproportionately made against Black people, despite Black people not being more likely to use it than anyone else. Legalization is a racial equity issue. It is also an untapped revenue source we could use.  Alongside legalization, we must automatically expunge the records of those with cannabis-related convictions and foster an industry which is diverse with robust participation from Maryland businesses, particularly businesses owned by people of color.

Do you support the Red Line east-west rail/subway project in Baltimore?

Yes.

Gov. Hogan’s cancellation of the Red Line set Baltimore’s economic development back decades, harmed Black neighborhoods in Baltimore, and took $900 million in federal funding off the table for Maryland. If built, it would have opened up job, education and health care opportunities for people in transit deserts in Baltimore and spurred economic development throughout the entire route. Building an all-rail Red Line and undoing the damage of the Hogan administration as fast as possible is the only right thing to do.

What mode of transportation should be used for the project?

[Candidate’s response in bold.]

  • Light rail
  • Buses
  • Mix of the two
  • Something else

Would transit vehicles have to share their lanes, rails or intersections with other drivers?

No.

Would you support changes to Maryland’s public transportation systems?

Yes.

Our state’s approach to transportation should center people, not cars. We need to build the Red Line, increase the frequency and reliability of MARC service, expand it west, build the Southern Maryland light rail, and finish the Purple Line. We must make bus service throughout the state more frequent and reliable. We need to invest in protected bike lanes, safe pedestrian walkways, and transit-oriented street design. Just as imperative is to fix MTA Mobility access. I will end the contract system for drivers and make them direct hires that are union drivers, which will improve service.

Which of the following public-private partnership projects would you complete?

[Candidate's response in bold.]

  • Interstate 270
  • The American Legion Bridge
  • The Capital Beltway
  • None of the above

Would you use toll lanes to fund these projects?

No.

Too often, “public-private partnerships” have just been a euphemism for privatization. I do not support the Hogan-Franchot privatized toll lanes project which will exacerbate traffic while overcharging drivers for the benefit of the private toll operator.  We should use federal bipartisan infrastructure bill funds to replace the American Legion Bridge and pursue alternatives to the toll lanes to actually reduce traffic including Bus Rapid Transit, extending the Metro, and leveraging reversible lanes.

Do you support the proposed high-speed maglev train between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.?

No.

The proposed route could damage ecologically sensitive areas like wetlands and streams. Additionally, it would disrupt neighborhoods during construction that would see little benefit from the finished project. Prince George’s County would see disruption from construction but not get a single stop. The maglev would also be so expensive as to be accessible only to those at the top of the income scale. We should focus our public transportation investments on projects that will benefit all Marylanders.

Do you believe that Maryland’s elections are generally accurate, fair and well run?

Yes.

The Maryland board of elections conducted audits after the 2020 primary election, the 2020 general election, the 2018 elections, and the 2016 elections using an independent software audit program. All of those audits found that the voting system counted ballots and reported results correctly. The ballot drop boxes introduced in 2020 were under surveillance 24/7, and there is no evidence there have been any security breaches. As governor, I will continue the same level of vigilance Maryland has for years and continue to keep our system running smoothly.

Would you propose any changes to the laws governing how voters cast their ballots?

Yes.

My focus is to continue increasing access to the ballot so no one is denied their right to vote. I support automatic universal mail-in ballots in Maryland, where you do not even have to opt in to request a mail ballot, it is automatically sent to every registered voter

Should Maryland do more to ensure minority-owned businesses have a fair opportunity to secure state contracts or business?

Yes.

First, we need to limit the use of emergency contracts that evade procurement requirements for minority-owned businesses. Second, we should actively solicit bids from minority-owned businesses, simplify the process to receive certified MBE status, and provide greater transparency and better training around the procurement process. Third, we need to reform the procurement process to improve MBE access.  Contracts could be broken up to make it easier for small businesses to secure state contracts. Finally, we need real accountability at each agency for hitting MBE targets.

John B. King

John B. King. (Kaitlin Newman for The Baltimore Banner)

John B. King. (Kaitlin Newman for The Baltimore Banner)