Students in the University of Maryland’s political activist groups have firm opinions about who they support in Maryland’s gubernatorial race. Other students? Not so much.
Mira Baum, a sophomore kinesiology major, said she doesn’t think a lot of students are following the race between Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, and Ben Jealous, his Democratic opponent.
“I think because we’re in college, and we don’t really check the news — I mean, I don’t. And current events aren’t really discussed in classes,” she said.
In a recent poll from Goucher College, taken from Sept. 11 to 16, Hogan was 22 points ahead of Jealous, but that came before the two clashed during a debate Monday.
Jealous is facing off against the popular incumbent this November, but Sydney Poretsky, this university’s College Democrats chapter president, said Jealous has “the power of the blue wave.”
“As people get to hear his platform and see him speak live and get to know his character, I think he definitely stands a chance and I think that he’s going to win,” Poretsky said.
Since becoming governor in a blue state, Hogan has cut tolls, provided about $25 billion for education and invested $2 billion in transportation funding. He bills himself as a moderate Republican and is often criticized for not confronting President Trump.
“I don’t tend to follow local politics because incumbents usually win. And I think Larry Hogan is doing a fine job right now,” said Andrew Mao, a freshman computer science and mathematics major.
Mao added that he does plan on voting, though.
Ben Colebrook, this university’s College Republicans chapter president, said he supports Hogan “times a million.”
“Larry Hogan is a governor that leads from the middle. He’s not a partisan, even though he is a Republican, he reaches across the aisle time and time again to pass meaningful legislation that helps Marylanders,” Colebrook said.
UMD Socialists, this university’s branch of the International Socialist Organization, also prefers Jealous over Hogan, but made it clear that the group does not endorse either candidate.
“We don’t really subscribe to the electorialism of working within either the Democratic or Republican parties,” Brendan Sullivan, a member of UMD Socialists said. “It’s clear to us that Ben Jealous is clearly the superior candidate to Larry Hogan.”
“But we don’t take a stand of endorsing him because our interpretation of socialism and socialist activism believes that the Democratic party is fundamentally a capitalist party, and we don’t align with capitalist parties,” the senior civil engineering major said.
At a news conference in August, Jealous was asked if he was a socialist. Hogan has frequently criticized Jealous as “too extreme” for Maryland.
“Are you f—ing kidding me?” Jealous said, according to The Washington Post.
He later apologized and said, “I’m a venture capitalist, not a socialist. I have never referred to myself as a socialist nor would I govern as one,” according to The Post.
The Goucher poll identified the economy, education, Trump, social justice and healthcare as the most important issues in determining voters’ decisions on whom to vote for. The phone poll, has a 3.4 percent margin of error.
“[Hogan’s] track record has proven that he can handle those things in a positive way,” Colebrook said.
Hogan has done a “great job” in many of those areas, including the opioid crisis, he said.
“Though we might not be seeing all of the results quite yet … he’s taken all the right steps, and we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.
Hogan appointed Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford to chair the Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force, and declared a state of emergency for the opioid crisis.
People are more comfortable with Hogan on those issues simply because he has more name recognition, Poretsky said.
“Ben Jealous doesn’t have the same funding or the same commercial ads or the same big Fortune 500-type of companies behind him paying for his name to get out there,” she said.
Hogan currently has over $8 million in the bank, while Jealous has under $400,000, according to Maryland Campaign Reporting Information System.
For Poretsky and Colebrook, the race is center stage.
“I think that this race has become my version of People magazine,” Poretsky said. “I use it as my form of entertainment. I wake up in the morning and kind of check everything that’s going on.”
Meanwhile, Ambika Sikri, a freshman computer science major, said she hasn’t been keeping an eye on the race.
“I’m just not that interested in it right now. I don’t want to say I’m not concerned because obviously these matters affect everyone, but I’m not that worried about who’s governor,” she said.