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3 African-Americans running for governor in 3 states

Reginald Stuart | 9/6/2018, 6:01 a.m.
President Trump has angered and mobilized voters across the nation to the point that many have been challenged to turn ...

President Trump has angered and mobilized voters across the nation to the point that many have been challenged to turn out en masse this fall to register and vote for candidates who reject his oft time bitter rhetoric.

For sure, black Americans have clinched historic roles in the battle to halt and reverse President Trump’s agenda, with a record three African-American candidates running for governor this November in three states — Florida, Georgia and Maryland.

Each is trying to return their state’s governorship to Democratic control.

In the process, political analysts said, the three contenders represent a new chapter for the Democratic Party. They reflect the emerging leadership that is younger, more female, broadly diverse and socially progressive, according to analysts.

With the exception of Maryland, their Republican opponents are hard-line Trump supporters, dissenting from his agenda quietly when they do.

“All of these candidates are pragmatic progressives,” said Emory University political science professor Andra Gillespie, a Richmond area native who earned her degree at the University of Virginia. “They are hoping to present plans to address the economic anxieties of the average working family.”

All three gubernatorial contests present distinct challenges to the contenders, regardless of party, based on the views of political analysts.

In Florida, where Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum scored a surprise win in last week’s Democratic Party primary, the challenge is stitching together party leaders who all endorsed him after the primary contest, then raising interest among others. Mr. Gillum won only 34 percent of the vote to clinch the party nomination. He has to build from there.

In Georgia, where Spelman College graduate and tax lawyer Stacey Abrams swept the Democratic primary decisively, winning 70 percent of the votes, the challenge is to continue her impressive campaign to register more historically unregistered voters and to get out the vote by knocking on doors house by house.

As for champions backing her cause, Ms. Abrams, a former Georgia state legislator, has the support of former President Obama and civil rights icon and Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

The Maryland contest, pitting former national NAACP chief Ben Jealous against current GOP Gov. Larry Hogan, presents a different set of tough challenges, analysts said.

Not only did Mr. Jealous divide the Democratic vote to win the primary, he defeated Rushern Baker, chief executive of heavily Democratic Prince George’s County and one of Maryland’s most respected Democrats with a history in state government.

Gov. Hogan had marginal competition in the Republican primary despite his repeated criticism of President Trump and solid opposition to most of Trump’s agenda. Gov. Hogan, a former Howard County executive, has enjoyed high bipartisan ratings during his four years of working with a Democratic-controlled state legislature.

Mr. Jealous lacks strong broad-based Democratic support and trails Gov. Hogan by a long distance in fundraising.

“They have a governor who is really popular in the state,” said Bowie State University government professor William Lewis. Gov. Hogan has been “very cautious” not to disrupt the civil, bipartisan relationship between leaders of the two political parties.