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GAITHERSBURG — If elected the state’s next governor, Democratic candidate Ben Jealous intends to emphasize public transportation at the expense of widening Interstate 495 and Interstate 270.
Widening highways helps in the short term, but ends in “long-term misery,” Jealous said Monday night.
He called Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal to add lanes to those highways a repeat of the mistakes made in other cities, like Los Angeles.
Rather than expanding those roads, Jealous prefers increasing bus rapid transit, expanding the Metro to Gaithersburg and adding service to MARC trains.
“Whether it’s transportation, immigration or incarceration, he wants to repeat every mistake,” Jealous said of Hogan.
Jealous, and his lieutenant-governor candidate Susan Turnbull, spoke and dined at the New Fortune Restaurant in Gaithersburg to almost three dozen of the state’s Asian American Pacific Islander leaders.
Prior to his talk, which was closed to the press, Jealous sat down and spoke with the Sentinel.
While most polls show Jealous losing to Hogan in this blue state, the candidate appeared confident about his chances.
There are 2.1 million registered Democrats to 1 million registered Republicans in Maryland, according to Board of Elections records.
With a two-to-one advantage, Jealous views his path to victory in terms of voter turnout, noting that Republican gubernatorial candidates in previous elections never received 900,000 votes.
While Hogan runs “a negative air war,” Jealous said, referring of recent television advertisements, Jealous has hired four times as many election workers as were used during the 2014 gubernatorial election.
That is just the beginning, he said, adding, “We will double that on Election Day. We are organizing to turn out the vote.”
Jealous said if elected, his first priority would be education, including mandatory pre-K programs, fully-funded public schools and programs that enable graduates to gain meaningful employment.
He scoffed at the idea that his ideas are too expensive. “I reject the notion that doing better always cost[s] more,” he said.
There are many old boilers in school that need replacing, Jealous said. Hogan’s idea is to repair them, while Jealous would replace them with more-efficient models that would cost less to operate and end up paying for themselves in two years, he said.
If elected, he would make sure casino money went to the schools, saying Hogan “broke his promise” to do so.
The state can afford better healthcare for all, Jealous believes, pointing to studies that show how Medicare for all saves tax dollars.
Hogan currently enjoys a 70-percent approval rating, causing Jealous to ask, “What has Hogan done with that popularity?” The Democratic candidate went on to list what he said has occurred since Hogan took office almost four years ago.
Maryland’s school ratings and job growth have fallen, he said.
The economy needs a jolt, other than luring Amazon to the state, said Jealous, who criticized Hogan for keeping details of the state’s incentives to Amazon secret.
He expected business growth to be a major topic with the state’s Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) leaders later that evening.
“We will have a lot of business leaders who” who are interested in cyberspace and STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) jobs and utilizing Maryland’s deep-water port in Baltimore more, Jealous said.
Greater use of the port “would enable us to build doorways to the rest of the world,” he said.
Bel Leong Hong, chair of the AAPI Caucus, explained why she had asked Jealous to address her group. “I thought it was important for him to know my community,” she said, adding that as a member of the Democratic National Committee in D.C., she did not intend to offer a similar invitation to Hogan.