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Ex-NAACP leader Ben Jealous aims to become Maryland’s first black governor

Ben Jealous, a former NAACP leader endorsed by Bernie Sanders, moved a step closer to becoming the next governor of Maryland by winning the Democratic primary in the state governor's race.

Ben Jealous, a former NAACP leader endorsed by Bernie Sanders, moved a step closer to becoming the next governor of Maryland by winning the Democratic primary in the state governor’s race.

After prevailing in a crowded primary field, Jealous is now set to face off against Maryland’s popular Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in the November general election. If he wins, Jealous would become Maryland’s first African-American governor.

Jealous has embraced progressive policy ides while campaigning, like implementing a Medicare-For-All universal health care system in the state and legalizing marijuana.

He’s also emphasized his background as a civil rights leader. His platform championed police reform and called for working to “end the era of mass incarceration” by striving for a fair criminal justice system.’

On Wednesday, Jealous told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he won the primary by campaigning “all across the state,” talking to voters about how to solve issues such as “how we make sure that our schools are fully funded, how we make sure that we truly get health care costs under control, how we get our public universities to be affordable again and we find the money to do that by ending mass incarceration.”

Sanders celebrated the primary win on Tuesday, saying in a statement that “there are few progressives stronger than Ben” and arguing that the outcome of the race “showed that running a progressive, issue-oriented campaign can bring all working people together.” Jealous, for his part, also endorsed Sanders during his 2016 presidential run.

Other potential 2020 Democratic presidential contenders, including progressive Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, endorsed Jealous in his primary bid as well.

But Jealous is likely to face a challenging race in the general election given that Hogan enjoys a high degree of popularity in the state.

“Hogan is in the strongest possible position you can be in for a Republican governor in a blue state in the time of Trump,” Mileah Kromer, an associate professor of political science at Goucher College said in an interview. “But that being said, it’s also a blue state.”

“These big, high-profile endorsements have shone a spotlight on the campaign and what that suggests to me is that Jealous is going to be able to raise money because of the national attention,” she said.

A key question to watch in the general election, Kromer added, is whether “Jealous will try to break apart the Hogan coalition by attempting to appeal at least somewhat to moderate Democrats or if he will focus on increasing turnout among progressives.”