State Watch

Fast-rising Dem star Wes Moore to be inaugurated Wednesday

Maryland Governor-Elect Wes Moore,stands for a photograph outside of the capitol dome in Annapolis, Md., Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

One of the fastest-rising stars in the Democratic Party will be sworn in on Wednesday when Wes Moore is inaugurated as the new governor of Maryland. 

It will be a historic moment when Moore takes the oath of office: He’ll be the first Black governor of Maryland, and only the third Black person elected to a governorship in U.S. history. He’ll be the only sitting Black governor in the country. 

Moore, who is 44 and has two children, said history wasn’t at the forefront of his mind during his successful campaign. 

“It was something I always recognized because I know the … very complex racial history of the state, but at the same time, I knew that that wasn’t why I was going to win,” he said in an interview with The Hill. “I wasn’t running to make history. I was running because I knew that there was an urgency in the challenges that we’re looking to solve.”

Plenty of Democrats will be wondering if another office will be in store for Moore some day: the presidency. 

But Moore and his office push off such suggestions. He’ll be laser-focused on Maryland for the foreseeable future.

“Governor Moore has been clear that this is going to be Maryland’s decade,” a senior campaign advisor told The Hill in a statement. “He’s focused on the mission at hand in Maryland to leave no one behind.”

Moore’s dedication to public service arose after a difficult childhood. He was only three years old when his father died, and it wasn’t until he was 14 that his mom was able to work one job instead of multiple to support him and his siblings.

“I learned early and, unfortunately, repetitively in my life about urgency and there is not this inevitableness of life,” he said.

But that sense of urgency is what pushed him to run for governor. He wanted to find a way to build safer and healthier communities.

That includes things like tackling issues that affect Marylanders most, like the economy and crime, but also environmental injustices, securing the right to abortion and addressing the racial wealth gap. 

“The argument that we’re making to the state is we’ve got to actually address this together,” Moore said. “We’re going all around the state and reminding the state how all these issues impact them. … It’s urban, rural and suburban parts of the state that have got to be part of the solution.”

Despite deep political polarization, Moore’s message did resonate with voters during the midterms. He beat out a crowded primary field of eight competitors before the election and secured nearly 65 percent of the vote to defeat Donald Trump-backed candidate Dan Cox in November. 

This, coupled with his history as a veteran, philanthropist and author, has pushed the rumor mill into overdrive as some wonder about potential White House ambitions. But Moore and his staff wave the idea off at this time. 

Though Moore and his staff wave off White House rumors at this time, he told Bloomberg he’s “humbled” by the inquiries into his larger political ambitions.

Still, he could be a strong contender for Democrats.

A veteran who served in Afghanistan, Moore comes from a family of immigrants. Despite being a Democrat, he earned an endorsement from the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police while campaigning, as well as major celebrities like Oprah Winfrey. 

He’s been open about his past — including a brush with the law as a young child — and he’s not afraid to discuss the impact of racially-targeted violence, which has grown over recent years.

Like many Black Americans, Moore and his family have been directly impacted by white violence — and it almost led to him never having the chance to run for Maryland governor. 

Moore’s great-grandparents were Jamaican immigrants who settled in South Carolina when they came to the U.S. But the Ku Klux Klan forced them back to their home country. 

“My great-grandfather was a vocal minister, and eventually he started getting threats, and the threats turned into violent threats,” Moore told The Hill. “He picked up the family in the middle of the night and they left not just the town, they left the country and headed to Jamaica. And for much of my family who left, they always pledged to never come back to this country.”

But Moore’s grandfather did come back. The Rev. James Thomas attended a historically Black college to study theology and became the first Black minister in the history of the Dutch Reformed Church. After Moore’s father died, Thomas helped raise Moore and his sisters in New York.

Though Thomas died in 2005 when Moore was serving in Afghanistan as captain of the 82nd Airborne Division, he remains an inspiration to Moore.

“I think about him because when he became a minister, the same threats that were coming to my great-grandfather, started coming for my grandpa,” said Moore. “And he stayed. He always said this country would be incomplete without him. And he helped raise his grandchildren in the same small home in the Bronx where he raised his children.”

The successes Black Americans have seen over the last year are not lost on Moore.

From the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to Rep. Hakeem Jeffries’s historic election as the first African American to lead a party in Congress, this is a moment of beauty in the nation, Moore said. 

“The thing that’s really powerful in this moment is that the country is realizing and continuing to see that inclusion and excellence isn’t a choice,” he said. “[Voters] are going for people who are eminently qualified and going for people who are representing the beautiful diversity of our country.”

But Moore, who will be inaugurated just two days after the nation celebrates the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., said the appointments and elections of highly qualified Black candidates is only the beginning step toward a more racially just society. 

“I don’t look at January 18 as the victory,” said Moore. “I look at January 18 as the opportunity. What Dr. King was saying wasn’t just about ‘oh, I want to make sure that we have people who can make history first.’ That wasn’t that wasn’t his aspiration, that wasn’t his goal. It was, are we going to make sure that in the moment where we had the opportunity to lead, did we do that?”

Tags 2022 elections abortion rights Crime Economy environment Maryland Maryland Fraternal Order of Police racial wealth gap Wes Moore

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