Jon Baron

Democrat

Jon Baron illustration

(John Baker for The Baltimore Banner)

(John Baker for The Baltimore Banner)

  • Age: 59
  • Resides: Montgomery County
  • Experience: Attorney, administrator and philanthropist. Bachelor’s in economics, Rice University. Master’s in public affairs, Princeton University. Law degree from Yale. Counsel, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business, 1989-1994. Program manager, Department of Defense Small Business Innovation Research program, 1995-2000. Founder and president, The Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, 2001-2015. Vice president of Evidence-Based Policy, Arnold Ventures, 2015-2021.
  • Personal: Married with two sons.
  • Candidate website
  • Read The Baltimore Banner's profile of Jon Baron
  • Read more election coverage

Running mate:

Natalie Williams

  • Age: 51
  • Resides: Bowie
  • Experience: Health care, civil administrator and public health advocate. Degrees from George Washington University and Trinity Washington University. Founder and CEO, BlitzAssociates, LLC, 1999-present. Director of strategic communications, D.C. Council, 2007-2010. Vice president of public affairs, United Medical Center, 2012-2015. Deputy Chief of Staff, D.C. Council, 2015-2016. Vice president of advancement,  Maryland University of Integrative Health, 2017-2019. Founder, Natalie Williams Breast Cancer Foundation. 
  • Personal: Single mother to one daughter.

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.

Education is a main reason I got into this race. More than one-quarter of Maryland eighth graders can’t read at a basic level, more than one-third can’t do basic math — no different than 20 years ago. The Blueprint can be a major turning point for Maryland. But unlike other candidates, I’ll focus its implementation on programs that are proven to be effective — like providing tutoring to every struggling first and second grader in the state, which has been shown to significantly improve reading and math scores and prevent serious learning problems. We’ll do this by engaging the community (e.g., retirees) to become tutors.

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

Yes.

Education policy, including decisions about curriculum, should be made through a partnership among policy officials, teachers, parents, the community and students themselves. I believe that partnership, as facilitated by local school boards and state and local education officials with significant input from the community, is generally strong. As governor, I would proactively reach out to parents and community leaders on an ongoing basis to help ensure their input is given full consideration in the decision-making process.

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

Yes.

I support teaching the truth about American history in our schools. This includes the truth about slavery, Jim Crow, and the continuing struggle for racial justice, as well as the undeniable progress that we’ve made in civil rights over the past 50 years. I’m proud that our schools include courses that cover the experiences of different racial and ethnic groups in the United States — and believe such instruction is essential. As Governor, I will support steps to expand curriculum content in these areas.  

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

Yes.

We urgently need to address violent crime across the state, including Baltimore — which has seen seven straight years with over 300 homicides, levels not seen since the 1990s crime wave. Our administration will fund crime-fighting strategies shown to produce big reductions in violent crime while building community trust, such as Focused Deterrence — an approach targeted at repeat violent offenders. When implemented in Oakland, California, it helped cut homicides by 50%. We’ll also invest in community policing in “hot spots” where half of all urban crime occurs — an approach found to cut crime by 25%.

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

No.

Our police are vital for keeping communities safe. I strongly support funding for the police, but believe such funding must prioritize law enforcement approaches that don’t just sound like good ideas, but have been tested in the real world and shown to significantly reduce crime while building community trust — approaches such as Focused Deterrence and community policing in crime hot spots, as discussed above. 

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

No.

I support the legalization of marijuana. But I do not support a general reduction in prosecution of nonviolent or low-level offenses. Instead, I support the expansion of proven-effective approaches such as drug courts, which are an alternative to incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders, offering them drug abuse treatment services while keeping them under intensive supervision. Drug courts not only offer offenders a path to recovery, but they’ve also been shown to protect public safety by reducing future arrests and convictions more than 30%.

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

Yes.

Maryland has some of the strictest gun laws in the U.S., but one area where we can do more is gun storage. Most U.S. school shootings are committed by youth who get access to a parent or relative’s unsecured guns. To prevent such shootings, we should follow Massachusetts and Oregon in requiring gun owners to store and lock all firearms when not in use. I’ve also called for a $100M investment to promote Safe Gun Technology, which uses biometric or other data to unlock a gun for its legal owner — making it inoperable in the hands of others. This could prevent countless deaths from stolen guns and suicides.

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

No.

The murder of Freddie Gray and many similar incidents have exposed deep racial inequities in our justice system that we must address.  I’m proud that Maryland has led the nation in enacting major police reforms. But there’s a critical missing piece I would bring as governor to the implementation of these reforms: rigorous testing to determine which are most effective (and should be expanded), and which are not (and should be revised or ended). For example, there are many types of police training, and we urgently need to determine which work best to reduce misconduct and build community trust.

Would you invest more state resources in Baltimore?

Yes.

Yes, we need to invest more in Baltimore. But my approach, different from the other candidates, is to invest in programs that aren’t just well-meaning but have been proven to improve lives. As one example (in addition to tutoring, drug courts, and other initiatives discussed earlier), we’ll pair Black barbershops with pharmacists — so when men come in to get their hair cut, they are also screened for high blood pressure and, if needed, prescribed medication. This solution has been shown to reduce the rate of uncontrolled high blood pressure (a leading killer of Black men) by more than half.

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

No.

What taxes should change?

I’m not advocating an increase in state spending or taxes — I’m advocating smart spending on policies that actually deliver results and improve lives. In fact, some initiatives I’m proposing — such as negotiating lower prices for prescription drugs and preventing unnecessary hospitalizations — would produce substantial savings for taxpayers and patients. I also strongly support the recently enacted tax break for retirees, and would seek other ways to ease property and other taxes for low- and moderate-income Marylanders in a budget-neutral way (e.g., by closing corporate tax loopholes).

How would you spend additional revenue?

In my first 100 days, we’ll launch a partnership with Maryland businesses to provide effective job training to every adult in our state who wants to advance. If done right, job training has been shown to increase annual earnings as much as 40% (or $8,000/person). But the key is to focus the training on fast-growing industries like IT and healthcare, and to work closely with local employers who provide paid internships to the trainees. Under our plan, the state will pay for the training, employers pay for the internships, the economy gets skilled workers — everyone benefits.

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

Yes.

We will increase the supply of affordable housing through commonsense zoning reforms, such as allowing homeowners in areas zoned for single-family housing to build a small accessory dwelling (“granny flat”) on their property, or allowing duplexes. These changes would not significantly alter neighborhoods (e.g., no high-rises). We should also expand housing vouchers for families in unstable housing or shelter — an approach shown to reduce family homelessness by 50% at a modest cost to the state (the cost of the vouchers is largely offset by reduced cost of emergency shelter and food assistance).

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 evidence is clear that vaccines are the single most effective tool we have for preventing serious illness and death from COVID. I was the first candidate to call for vaccine requirements for all health care workers, public employees, teachers, and students 16 and older — and I would support other efforts to increase the vaccination rate in Maryland, such as vaccine passports, if recommended by public health experts. 

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

No.

The decision about whether to become a parent, and when, is just about the most consequential decision a person can make in life. The idea that that decision, from the moment of conception, should be made by the government — not the woman — is appalling. It is the opposite of conservative: It is government intrusion into our most important personal decisions. I am pro-choice, and I believe abortion rights should be enshrined in Maryland’s constitution. I was also proud of the General Assembly for their recent action to expand the pool of health care providers who can perform abortions in Maryland.

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

Yes.

Yes, the evidence that climate change is influenced by human activities is definitive. 

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.

Maryland has followed a highly successful, regional approach to addressing climate change. Our membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (an 11-state cap-and-trade program that’s cut power plant emissions 47%) has helped us lead the U.S. in cutting carbon emissions. As part of our administration’s comprehensive climate strategy, we’ll expand this successful regional approach to other sectors. In transportation, for example, we’ll join the Transportation and Climate Initiative — a new regional cap-and-trade program that aims to cut transportation-related emissions by 26% by 2032.

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 a wide range of clean energy alternatives in Maryland as we work towards a carbon-free future in our state. My administration will set ambitious carbon emissions standards — e.g., for government buildings and transportation vehicles — that are technology-neutral. Buildings, for example, will have flexibility to meet the standards through rooftop solar panels, purchase of electricity from clean sources (e.g., wind or nuclear) and/or energy-efficiency measures. The goal is to achieve emission reductions in the most cost-effective manner and while phasing out fossil fuels.

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

Yes.

Our climate plan works to minimize the effect of climate change on marginalized communities — and it also ensures those communities are not adversely affected by climate policy. For example, we’ll use the revenue generated from our sale of emission permits under the new Transportation and Climate Initiative (discussed above) to fully offset any adverse economic effects in rural and low-income communities (resulting, for example, from slightly higher fuel costs). We’ll also invest the revenue in environmental justice initiatives, such as curbing air pollution from the Baltimore trash incinerator.

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

Yes.

I will vote for legalization. I also strongly support expungement of past convictions for conduct made legal under the proposed law. When it comes to implementation, it’s important that the licensing process for cannabis providers ensures equitable participation by minority- and women-owned businesses. We should also use tax revenue from marijuana sales to fund proven-effective substance abuse prevention programs, such as LifeSkills Training — which teaches middle schoolers critical social- and self-management skills and has been shown to reduce long-term rates of substance abuse by up to 30%.

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

Yes.

When I’m governor, we’ll implement an effective east-west transit solution in Baltimore. Based on what we know now, the best option appears to be the Red Line. Like many others, I was deeply concerned when Gov. Hogan suspended the Red Line project, but proud of our Congressional representatives for ensuring priority federal consideration of the Red Line in the recently enacted bipartisan infrastructure bill. My administration will carefully review the results of ongoing studies of east-west transit options, including the Red Line, and implement the most effective option.

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.

I’m a strong supporter of mass transit (I’ve ridden the bus to work for more than 25 years!). As governor, I will work to ensure that all Marylanders are connected through a variety of mass transit options — including MARC service and other rail and bus options — and would be open to exploring changes that would bring us closer to that goal.

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?

Yes.

I support the scaled-back plan for Interstates 495 and 270 expansion, focused on the southern part of I-270 and I-495 from the I-270 spur through the American Legion Bridge. This approach would create additional toll lanes that could also be accessed without charge by high-occupancy vehicles (HOV) with 2 or more passengers. In Virginia — e.g., on I-66 inside the beltway — this approach has successfully created a congestion-free alternative during rush hour (i.e., the additional lanes), and it has also modestly reduced congestion in the regular lanes as the additional lanes serve as an “escape valve.”

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

No.

I’m skeptical of the maglev project, based on what we know now. It would be extremely expensive ($14-17 billion) and highly disruptive to neighborhoods and the environment. In addition, its promise of a 15-minute commute from D.C. to Baltimore is only marginally better than the 30-minute commute currently available on Amtrak’s Acela train. It seems that a more cost-effective solution would be to fund improvements in MARC and Amtrak service between D.C. and Baltimore.

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

Yes.

Maryland’s elections are accurate, fair, and efficiently administered. As governor, I will work with the legislature to ensure our state has the resources needed to support well-run elections statewide.

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

Yes.

The right to vote is sacred, and our state should do everything we can to ensure all eligible voters are able to vote with ease. To that end, I support exploring a move to universal mail-in voting and automatic voter registration (similar to Oregon’s system), and ensuring that voter registration forms and voting forms are available in multiple languages. As governor, I will also work to ensure that each community has enough polling places and that all polling places are accessible to voters with physical or other disabilities.

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

Yes.

We will use the government procurement process to advance equity for minority-owned businesses across the state. Our current system gives an unfair advantage to large, preexisting contractors who know the arcane rules of government procurement and have long-standing relationships with state agency officials. That’s not fair — and it’s something I’ve stood up against in my career. When I ran a billion-dollar program in the Clinton Administration, we streamlined the procurement process to allow new companies, many of them minority-owned, to participate. That’s what I’ll do as governor.

Gubernatorial candidate Jon Baron, center, greets guests before a candidates forum on healthcare issues sponsored by the Maryland Democratic Party at BC Brewery.

Jon Baron. (Kaitlin Newman for The Baltimore Banner)

Jon Baron. (Kaitlin Newman for The Baltimore Banner)