Wes Moore, Maryland’s first black governor, is the real deal for Democrats

BALTIMORE — Wes Moore has a resume that even George Santos on his best day couldn’t have invented. A single mother raised him in the Bronx. He is an army vet. He is a Rhodes Scholar and a New York Times Bestselling Author. The list goes on: television host, non-profit CEO, banker, businessman, Baltimore resident and promoter, husband, father and friend of Oprah.

Moore, 44, achieved what is arguably his crowning achievement this week when he became Maryland’s first black governor and the third black governor elected nationwide since Reconstruction. Yet it’s hard not to read Moore’s trajectory as a calculated career escalation in the service of this very moment and maybe, possibly, one day… but not for four or eight years, of course – run for president.

But Moore says his only focus right now is running Maryland. And he means it.

Still, Moore has a way of denying that he has loftier ambitions that reinforce the very thing he’s trying to downplay. “I don’t know how anyone could look at what I did and think it was planned. You don’t plan the trip,” Moore told HuffPost in her mauve transition office overlooking misty downtown Baltimore last weekend. “When he was leading soldiers in Afghanistan, he definitely wasn’t leading them thinking, ‘Man, this is going to be great when I run a big nonprofit one day.’ Or when he was running a business helping first-generation students, he wasn’t there saying, ‘This is going to be amazing when I run for governor one day.’ I don’t work like that.”

Moore’s double-digit victory last year against a hardline Republican who isn’t even popular in the state. The retiring Republican governor approved cleared a space for Moore on the Democrats’ national bench along with other ambitious governors: Jared Polis of Colorado, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania.

I asked Moore if he has been in contact with any of his peers at the state level. He paused to think about this, then cited his well-known relationship with Deval Patrick, who, as two-term governor of Massachusetts, was the second black governor elected in the US. Between Patrick and Moore was David Patterson of New York, who took office. for the disgraced Eliot Spitzer in 2008. Patterson was also the first blind person to be sworn in as governor, but was never subsequently elected to a full term.

Moore said he spoke with Patrick twice a week, mostly about the basics of setting up his office and transition team. The advice that stuck with Moore the most: “You have to move urgently, but not so fast that you don’t have a chance to look around you.”

Even after garnering the most votes in Maryland history, Moore has a challenging term ahead that will require appeasing legislative Democrats who have spent the past eight years chafing under Republican rule. “The challenge is that he doesn’t really have a target for the opposition,” said former Maryland Republican Party Chairman Bruce Poole. “He has a legislature full of Democrats who have been bottled up with all kinds of ideas for the last eight years and a lot of money on the table. Unfortunately, no matter how much money you have, you probably won’t live up to people’s expectations.”

Wes Moore delivers remarks during his unveiling.

Michael A. McCoy for HuffPost

Moore, who previously described himself as socially liberal and fiscally conservative, has vowed to create ambitious programs to raise wages, train workers and alleviate child poverty, leveraging resources in a state he calls “asset-rich.” and poor in strategy”. On Thursday, the governor’s first day in office, he released $69 million in earmarked spending that had languished under his predecessor, Larry Hogan.

“It’s been a pretty unlikely trip,” Moore said, looking out at downtown Baltimore from a window in the purple transition office, the cord that controlled the shade wrapped tightly around his fist. Moore was talking about his upbringing and the disappointing early primary polls that showed him in single digits with a lackluster name ID. “I have a pretty remarkable opportunity right now in front of me to do something that I’ve been working on all my adult life,” Moore said.

The best way to understand Moore’s adult life is to understand his childhood. His book “The Other Wes Moore” features Moore’s upbringing along with that of another black man named Wes Moore, a Baltimore native who is serving a life sentence for his role in the murder of a police officer in the robbery. from a jewelry store The relationship blossomed after the politician read about the other Wes Moore’s crimes in the newspaper. Moore has received some criticism for seeming to falsely suggest in the opening copy that he, too, was born and raised in Baltimore. Moore’s mother only moved there while Moore was at school, but Moore spent much of his adulthood in Charm City.

Wes Moore hugs Oprah Winfrey, who introduced Moore at her inauguration. "I trust you," Winfrey told him during the event.
Wes Moore hugs Oprah Winfrey, who introduced Moore at her inauguration. “I trust you,” Winfrey told him during the event.

Michael A. McCoy for HuffPost

Moore’s story begins in Takoma Park, Maryland. His father, Westley Moore Sr., was a radio newscaster who met his mother, Joy, at work. When Moore was 3 years old, his father died suddenly from a rare viral infection that caused his windpipe to swell shut. Moore’s mother later moved the family to the Bronx, New York, to live with her parents. Moore’s grandfather, a Jamaican immigrant on his mother’s side, was the first black minister in the Dutch Reformed Church.

Joy struggled to raise Moore and her two sisters in a neighborhood steeped in drugs and violence. “Even the name of the street we walked on, Gun Hill Road, suggested a blood sport,” Moore wrote. Her mother managed to enroll Moore in a prestigious private school in the Bronx, but Moore’s behavior was so bad that she eventually sent him to Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pennsylvania. Moore credits the school for unleashing his leadership skills, an experience seemingly denied to the other Wes Moore.

“I’m decades away from being an 11-year-old in handcuffs,” Moore said, a line he reviewed at his inauguration Wednesday. “And now I am days away from becoming governor. I’m playing with the house money right now, you know what I mean?

Moore attended Valley Forge High School before enrolling at Johns Hopkins University. He then went on to study at Oxford University, earned a White House scholarship, became an investment banker, deployed overseas as a captain in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, and wrote several books. The “Other Wes Moore” put Moore on Oprah’s radar. Winfrey promoted the book and tapped Moore to host a show, “Beyond Belief,” on her OWN Network. “I trust you,” Winfrey told Moore in front of thousands on Wednesday. “I trust your vision. I trust his leadership.”

Moore also ran the Robinhood Foundation, New York’s largest anti-poverty organization, from Baltimore, where five years ago Moore and his wife, Dawn, who worked for previous Democratic administrations in Annapolis, bought an 8,000-square-foot home for $2.3 millions. .

Presidential buzz has followed Moore since his time at Valley Forge. Former classmates told the Washington Post that they hoped to see Moore in the White House one day. Furthermore, former Baltimore mayor Kurt Schmoke, an early mentor of his, indirectly encouraged this path, urging Moore to apply for the Rhodes Scholarship and enter public service.

Thousands of people attended Moore's swearing in as the 63rd Governor of Maryland. "The first black man to be elected governor is amazing," one person said.
Thousands of people attended Moore’s swearing in as the 63rd Governor of Maryland. “The first black man to be elected governor is amazing,” said one person.

Michael A. McCoy for HuffPost

“Here was someone who was committed to the fight of the world in some way, whether it was running for office or having a big corporation that will employ a lot of people and improve the lives of others,” Schmoke, now president of the university. of Baltimore, he told HuffPost. “I wasn’t sure he was interested in an elected position. I really thought that, at some point, he would be involved in public service. But I strongly encouraged him to spend some time in the private sector as well.”

Schmoke described Moore as a “pragmatic optimist” from a very young age. “Some of the things he talked about in the early part of his career got him down. But he couldn’t stay down,” Schmoke said. “You know, losing his father, not doing very well in school initially, having to live with his grandparents, for some people, those negative factors don’t outweigh them.”

If the “Another Wes Moore” can be criticized, it’s that Moore doesn’t draw his own conclusions about why one Wes Moore prospered while the other didn’t. However, observers of Moore’s life point to her college-educated mother, a tireless worker with a strong support system following the death of her husband. Moore credits his mother for inspiring him to enter public service.

Moore's inauguration was a historic event for many.
Moore’s inauguration was a historic event for many.

Michael A. McCoy for HuffPost

“I just watched my mom go through this whole spiral of struggles that for years was really unfair, so I knew these were the issues I wanted to work on in my life,” Moore said. “Where the military was really helpful to me is that it taught me how to be a leader. In the military, they intend to put you in charge of something small and then have this gradual sense of responsibility, which I think he really needed because you realize there’s an addiction to it. I wanted it. I wanted to be the person who, at the end of the day, has to make the tough decision and then get up the next morning and make another one.”

Moore’s inauguration in Annapolis drew thousands of people who wanted to witness the historic swearing in of Maryland’s first black governor. “We’ve lived in Maryland most of my life, and it’s wonderful to see the diversity, change and progress that Maryland has made,” said Edward Martin, a retired educator who told me he was a cousin of Moore’s father.

“It’s historic,” said Lorna Forde, a 64-year-old businesswoman. “The first black man to be elected governor is incredible. People of color are subjected to so much, and it’s not always positive. To have an event like this, where you have someone who looks like you in the highest office in the state, there’s just no feeling that can describe it.”


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