When he’s sworn in Wednesday, the inauguration of Wes Moore will mark a historical achievement for Maryland as the state’s first Black governor.
Some Black leaders say it also marks an achievement for Black voters and residents to see someone in a leadership position who “looks like them.”
Sen. Antonio Hayes (D-Baltimore City) puts Moore’s election in November in this historical context: He is the third African American in the nation ever elected governor.
“As you travel across this country, you have thousands of [African American] state legislators, mayors, county officials, but the [political] establishment has been very reluctant to give a State House to an African American governor,” said Hayes, one of the first Black leaders who supported Moore and his campaign. “It’s a proud moment for me as it is for many other people.”
Although Moore, 44, claims Maryland’s largest and majority Black city of Baltimore as home, another jurisdiction with hundreds of thousands of Black voters earned credit for pushing Moore to the top in the July primary: Prince George’s County.
The D.C. suburb with nearly 600,000 registered voters is also home to the state’s highest number of Democratic voters with slightly more than 464,000.
In the July primary, Moore and his running mate, Lt. Gov.-elect Aruna Miller (D) who became the first woman of color elected to the position, received approximately 59,428 votes in Prince George’s, the highest number from any of the state’s 23 counties and Baltimore.
“He was my choice, but most importantly he was the people’s choice,” said former state delegate and Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy (D). “I’m grateful to all of the residents of Prince George’s County for voting overwhelmingly for him.”
A key moment in Moore’s campaign was a surprise, and enthusiastic, endorsement in March 2022 from County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who rallied with voters as Moore and running mate Aruna Miller as they opened a field office in the county.
When Moore declared victory in winning the Democratic nomination at his campaign office in Baltimore that summer, Alsobrooks was there and Moore thanked her for her support.
“I believe that voters, especially Prince Georgians, enthusiastically voted for Wes Moore because of his character and vision,” Alsobrooks said in a statement released Tuesday. “He is exactly what Maryland needs in this moment, offering a fresh perspective and a bold agenda for Marylanders, a vision where we leave no one behind in our State.”
Some had believed that Alsobrooks would endorse her predecessor, former County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, who also was seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, but dropped out about six weeks before the July primary.
Besides Braveboy and Alsobrooks, other Prince George’s leaders endorsed Moore months before the primary.
They noted Moore’s campaign promise to “leave no one behind” and his accomplishments as a Rhodes Scholar, author, military veteran and former executive director of the Robin Hood Foundation, a New York-based anti-poverty organization, as reasons for their support.
Moore campaigned on goals including eradicating childhood poverty, continuing to fund the billion-dollar Blueprint for Maryland’s Future education reform plan and supporting military veterans.
Still, Moore’s supporters took a risk in backing a political novice who never held a statewide office.
Former state Sen. Obie Patterson (D-Prince George’s), also an early Moore supporter, hopes the incoming administration will support and secure additional funding for the state’s four historically Black colleges and universities.
Patterson said Moore’s inauguration sends a message to the state’s future leaders.
“We want to send a message to our grandkids, and I have to two grandkids, [that] there’s room at the top for people of color and we should not take it lightly,” he said. “It is a time for us to reflect and be happy, but never let our guards down. Getting into position is one thing, but we’ve got to produce…”
Del. Nicole Williams (D-Prince George’s), who attended Moore’s campaign office opening in the county last year, compared his upcoming inauguration to when former President Barack Obama became the nation’s first Black president in 2008.
“It’s surreal to some extent,” she said.
Williams admitted that some people questioned her about not supporting Baker and even told her that former comptroller and Democratic gubernational candidate Peter Franchot would win. She said she supports both men “immensely,” but she said the state needed new and fresh leadership.
“I can’t explain it except that [Moore] has that ‘it’ factor. It’s hard to explain what that is, but he has it,” she said. “But once you meet him, you will be like, ‘this is a man with a dream and with a vision and with a drive’ that I know we need here for our state to take us to that next level.”