Wes Moore runs on patriotism to take back Maryland governor’s mansion for Democrats

Maryland gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore is using his military record and a pro-America agenda to remind voters that Republicans don’t hold a monopoly on patriotism.

An Army combat veteran and first-time Democratic candidate, Mr. Moore said he takes patriotism “very, very seriously.”

“I look at my history where I was willing to put my life on the line for this country, and I would do it all over again because I believe in what this country is and what this country can be for so many other people,” he said in an interview with The Washington Times.

At first glance, the candidate’s rhetoric sounds more like the talking points out of a GOP playbook than a Democratic campaign in a reliably blue state.

Mr. Moore, who is the undisputed frontrunner in the governor’s race, intends to knock down Republican attacks that portray Democrats as anti-patriotic or promoting an “America Last” agenda.

Alongside running mate Aruna Miller, he is telling voters they will level the playing field, enhance public safety and change the attitude in their party about embracing American ideals.

Stella Rouse, government and politics professor at the University of Maryland, said Mr. Moore’s approach could appeal to more independent and persuasive Republican voters.

“Particularly, the way he is approaching the campaign, he is trying to reach out to non-Trump-like Republicans who certainly exist in a state like Maryland,” she said.

“In a state like Maryland, his progressive platform is going to appeal to many, but obviously, I think, he needs to be mindful and he’s very conscious about the fact that he wants to bring people together in a Biden mold, even though I would argue he is more progressive than the president.”

Mr. Moore is coming on strong ahead of Election Day, with a 10-1 fundraising advantage over his GOP opponent, state Del. Dan Cox, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who served two terms, is ineligible to run for reelection due to state term limits.

Maryland is typically a safe Democratic state, where both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden won by a wide margin over Mr. Trump. Mr. Moore campaigned with Mr. Biden last month in Rockville.

The candidate also has painted Mr. Cox as an extremist for attending Mr. Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington that preceded the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol.

“When I talk about patriotism, my definition of patriotism is putting on a uniform and leaving my family to go serve this country overseas in Afghanistan. [Cox’s] definition of patriotism is putting on a baseball cap and calling others to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6,” Mr. Moore said.

Mr. Cox has distanced himself from accusations that he is too rightwing for Maryland. He counters that Mr. Moore is politically out of touch with moderates and independents in the state.

“He’s too left. I’m actually very moderate. I am focused on the issues that people believe in Maryland — less taxes, more freedom, more parental involvement. That’s what everybody wants, and [Mr. Moore] wants the exact opposite,” Mr. Cox told The Times.

Mr. Moore has adopted the military-inspired campaign slogan of “Leave Nobody Behind,” saying he will fight to make Maryland more competitive in attracting new businesses and expanding opportunities in low-income and minority communities.

Promoting his personal story of triumph, Mr. Moore focuses on the power of opportunity rather than the barriers of institutional racism emphasized by other Democrats.

“I think about my life and the opportunities that I had. There’s no place else where a story like mine could be real,” Mr. Moore said.

Mr. Moore grew up in a single-parent household. He was just 3 years old when his father died of a rare virus.

At 17, he joined the US Army, He received an associate’s degree from Valley Forge Military College in 1998 and later graduated from Johns Hopkins University.

He earned a Rhodes Scholarship, becoming the first Black student from his alma mater to achieve such a feat. He also served as a White House fellow to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Mr. Moore emphasizes his roots in his book, often assigned reading in Maryland public schools, about himself and another Baltimore man with the same name who grew up under similar circumstances but ended up on a drastically different path.

The ‘Other Wes Moore’ ended up dealing drugs, engaging in crime, and is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of a security guard during a robbery.

Mr. Moore, the gubernatorial candidate, shares the story to highlight the dichotomy of educational opportunities and having family support.

He wants to expand educational opportunities and close the racial achievement gap by promoting STEM opportunities and deepening access to career and technical education opportunities.

The candidate also hopes to shore up learning gaps driven by the pandemic by expanding after-school programs and tutoring resources.

If elected, Mr. Moore would be the first Black governor of Maryland, but he isn’t interested in just being a footnote in history books.

“The future of Maryland is personal to me,” he said. “I know that Maryland can be a state where we leave nobody behind because we’ve left too many behind. Opportunity has not been apportioned fairly in the state, but we can build and grow it in a way that everybody can benefit.”