Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous outlined his signature plan to improve education by reallocating money spent on mass incarceration, among other proposed policies, at an event hosted by this university’s chapters of College Democrats and Our Revolution on Tuesday night.
“The number one way that we will fund greater college affordability is we’ll shift our priority,” Jealous said. “We’ll end the failed war on drugs. It took about two generations to get where we are, it’ll take a while to get back to where we need to be. But we have the money, we’re just spending it the wrong way.”
About 30 people attended to listen to the former NAACP president in Tydings Hall during the student organizations’ joint speaking series. The groups have also hosted state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery).
Jealous announced his candidacy on May 31 and has campaigned on adopting a Medicare-for-All system, raising the minimum wage to $15 and reforming the criminal justice system through ending mass incarceration. Through such reform, funds could instead be spent on higher education.
“Our economy only works when our schools work for everybody, when our health care system works for everybody [and] when it’s easier to get into college than it is to get into prison,” Jealous said.
Jealous also addressed the burden some students who are saddled with debt may face after graduation.
“The difference between coming out $100,000 in debt and coming out debt-free is having to go do some job just so you can pay your bills versus being able to pursue your dreams,” he said.
As one of eight serious democratic contenders, Jealous faces a crowded field.
Rather than focusing on winning over Democrats who voted for Hogan the last election cycle, Jealous said his campaign needs to convince Democrats to come out in 2018 who didn’t vote in 2014.
Throughout the event, Jealous emphasized the importance of getting involved in politics.
“The most important lesson from the Civil Rights movement is change does not come from Washington; change comes to Washington,” he said.
He urged those in attendance to sign up to vote in this state and to register other people to vote.
“We turn out next fall, we win, Hogan loses and we get back to moving forward,” Jealous said.
Public health science major Aidan Bissell-Siders said he came to the event tonight to hear a progressive gubernatorial candidate share some of his positions.
He praised Jealous’ ability to build teams of people and was interested to see how Jealous would get people out to vote on the issues.
Freshman computer science major Shivam Shukla said the candidate’s health care policy particularly resonated with him.
“I was a big advocate of it when Bernie Sanders was running as well as back in Tampa, where I live,” he said. “Even just his personality and his background [as president] of the NAACP, his entire life was spent fighting for people like us so that’s why I support him.”
Jealous described universal healthcare as not only “a moral imperative,” but also an “economic imperative.”
Former Democratic National Committee Vice Chair Susan Turnbull, Jealous’ running mate, also attended. She has held national, state and local positions in the party, though never an elected office, the Washington Post reported. She also held leadership positions in the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Jewish Women International, according to the Post.