Gov. Wes Moore wants Democrats to deliver results. If he pulls it off, he could change Maryland for decades

Jul 18, 2023

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland — In Gov. Wes Moore’s office, a regal space where a chess set sits near his desk, a nearby message reads: “Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.”

Moore — the first Black governor in state history and only the third elected Black governor in the nation’s history — is poised to dramatically reshape the trajectory of the state for decades to come.

Such a mission drives him, especially since he had never held elected office before becoming governor. His path, should he succeed, is not an unfamiliar one: recent American political history is full of such figures who came to office as outsiders, adapted quickly to work with a legislature, and made things happen.

That brand — an outsider who gets things done — has long punched the tickets of presidential contenders, from Mitt Romney to Chris Christie. Should he succeed, Wes Moore could be next.

During an interview in the governor’s office in late June, Moore told me that he wanted Marylanders to see that his administration could be “bold” and “still be responsible.”

“The fact that we were able to get all of our bills passed with Republicans, I think was shocking to people,” the 44-year-old Democratic governor said of bipartisan cooperation in the decidedly blue state. “They saw that we meant it when we said that we’re going to make our case in every corner of the state. I think people saw that was legitimate.”

Along the way, Moore spoke about the transition from campaigning to governing, gun violence, book bans, and his thoughts on what actually defines the Democratic Party.

‘We’re not demanding that other people do things’

Moore has long been floated by many Democrats as a future Senate or presidential candidate, with many seeing the governor as part of a new generation of leaders in a party that has often been criticized for failing to transition political power to younger generations.

While national Republicans have largely been defined by their push for tax cuts and their opposition to abortion rights, national Democrats have sometimes been called out for not having a clear message for voters about their core values.

Moore, who was sworn into office in January, has his own answer for how the Democratic Party should pitch itself to voters.

“If I had to break it down in one word, it’s results,” he said. “On the national level, we have the biggest and most impactful bipartisan piece of infrastructure legislation that’s ever passed. On the local side, I stood with President Biden during my first weeks of office and we announced that we were working together on the Frederick Douglass Tunnel, which is going to produce 30,000 good paying jobs in the state of Maryland.”

When speaking about the Democratic Party in Maryland, Moore leaned into a similar message.

“If you look at the work that we’re doing here in the state of Maryland, it’s results,” he said. “We’re not talking about things and we’re not demanding that other people do things. We’re doing them ourselves.”

‘There’s not a drop of entitlement in our team’

Moore, who was elected with nearly 65% of the vote last November against then-GOP state Del. Dan Cox, ran on a platform of strengthening public education, expanding the state’s earned income tax credit, enacting a service-year program for high school graduates, bolstering access to health care, and aiding the state’s military community.

This year, Moore saw the earned income tax credit created by the Maryland legislative in 2020 made permanent, while also signing into law an eligibility expansion of the state’s child-tax credit — part of his longstanding desire to end child poverty in the state. The governor signed into law the service-year option that he had long championed. And he also approved a health-care reimbursement program for Maryland National Guard members, one that he hopes will be a first step to them having free health and dental benefits.

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