Democrat Wes Moore could make Maryland history in midterm election Along with an otherwise historic Democratic ticket, Wes Moore, a businessman, philanthropist and political newcomer, has a chance to be Maryland's first Black governor.

Wes Moore looks to make history as Maryland's first Black governor

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In this country, the fall elections include a vote for governor of Maryland. That blue state is one of several in recent years that elected a Republican governor, Larry Hogan, who's been very popular. Now as Hogan steps down, Democrats are favored to retake the seat, and their candidate is unlike any past governor in the history of Maryland, which was a slave state in the 1800s. NPR's Alana Wise reports.

ARUNA MILLER: Are you fired up and ready for Moore?

(CHEERING)

ALANA WISE, BYLINE: The gravity of a potential historic win in this year's Maryland governor's race is not lost on Democrats. Wes Moore could be the state's first Black governor. His running mate, Aruna Miller, introduced him at a recent University of Maryland rally. And she could be the first woman immigrant in the No. 2 seat. Wes Moore says that's proof his state is ready for progress.

WES MOORE: This is a moment for our state to send a message to the rest of this country that Maryland will lead. And Maryland's not leaving people behind in the process either.

(CHEERING)

WISE: The Rhodes Scholar, Army veteran and former businessman could be just the third Black elected governor in the nation.

MOORE: The history-making nature is not lost on me, particularly when you consider, you know, my family history, my family background. Yet at the same time, I will never, ever lose sight of the fact that that's not why I'm running.

WISE: Wes Moore has never held public office. His past was spent in the business world as an investment banker and CEO of two philanthropic organizations. Still, recent polling shows Moore some 30 points ahead of his Republican opponent, Dan Cox. Across the state at recent campaign events, Moore has painted the Trump-endorsed Maryland delegate as an extremist.

MOORE: We are currently running against somebody whose definition of patriotism is putting on a baseball cap and asking people to join him on January 6 at the Capitol.

WISE: Despite Moore's double-digit lead, national Democrats aren't taking any chances. Over the past week, Moore has hosted high-profile fellow Democrats, including Vice President Kamala Harris and DNC Chair Jaime Harrison. Harrison describes Moore as a candidate unlike any he's ever seen.

JAIME HARRISON: When you look at Wes and his story, he embodies everything that is great about America.

WISE: But Moore's detractors, he embodies inexperience. And to the Republican candidate, Cox, Moore is too liberal for his focus on issues such as ending childhood poverty and expanding education access. Cox didn't respond to NPR's request for an interview. But during the pair's only televised debate, he accused Moore of refusing to face him more often on the debate stage.

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DAN COX: This is the difference between us. It's a stark difference. And when you look at the reason he won't debate, it's because he's a phony.

WISE: But Moore's popularity in the polls is evident among his supporters.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Can I pray for you?

MOORE: Oh, please.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Father God, in the name of Jesus...

WISE: At one event, a woman was driven to tears as she spent 15 minutes with her head bowed in solemn prayer with Moore, leaving his shirt stained with tears and makeup. Others cheered in amazement at being so near to the charismatic political neophyte and jockey to get selfies with the candidate.

MOORE: There we go.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: There you go.

WISE: One of those supporters is Theresa Grimes, a 71-year-old lifelong Maryland resident.

THERESA GRIMES: Well, I feel very proud, very proud because we need somebody to represent us.

WISE: And she didn't let her enthusiasm stop at the governor's mansion.

GRIMES: Yes, he could be the president. He could be the next - the second Black president.

WISE: Wes Moore has, however, vowed that he has his eyes squarely on the future of Maryland.

Alana Wise, NPR News, Maryland.

(SOUNDBITE OF BUTCHER BROWN'S "SUNDRESS")

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