By Sean Yoes, Baltimore AFRO Editor[email protected]

With less than a week before the Democratic primary on June 26, there are still eight candidates left who are vying for the nomination and the opportunity to take on Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in November.

However, it seems clear two candidates, Ben Jealous, the former president and CEO of the NAACP and Rushern Baker, Prince George’s County Executive have emerged as frontrunners.

Ben Jealous, former president and CEO of the NAACP and Rushern Baker, Prince George’s County Executive, have emerged as the frontrunners in the election for the Democratic nomination for Maryland Governor on June 26. (Courtesy Photos)

In a recent Baltimore Sun/University of Baltimore poll, both Baker and Jealous registered 16 percent, with the rest of the field lagging behind significantly with single-digit support. WBAL-TV reports that in the June 2018 Gonzales Maryland poll, Baker edged Jealous slightly, 25 percent to 23 percent, however, those two percentage points are within the polls margin of error of (plus or minus) 3.5 percent.

Both the Sun and Gonzales polls indicate that Baker enjoys stronger support in the D.C. suburbs, while Jealous clearly leads Baker in the Baltimore area.

Yet, no poll can capture the fevered political machinations taking place behind the scenes to push these two men to the Democratic nomination. Two overarching political narratives seem to be apparent; Baker is the preference of Maryland’s Democratic machine, while Jealous has been the choice of national Democratic stars, many of the state’s unions and progressive political organizations.

In recent days, Jealous has been making the rounds with high-profile politicians like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) and Sen. Kamala Harris of California (who have both endorsed him). Jealous has also been endorsed by New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker and Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles. All four of those Democratic Party stars are considered likely challengers for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

The groups endorsing Jealous include: the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) International, United Food and Commercial Workers, 27, 400 and 1994 , the Service Employees International Union, National Nurses United and the Maryland State Education Association, among dozens of groups backing the former NAACP president.

Baker has received the support of virtually every powerful Democratic politician in the state including: former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, Maryland Atty. Gen. Brian Frosh, Montgomery County Exec. Ike Leggett, former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, Senate President Pro Tem, Nathaniel McFadden, and Valerie Ervin, the former gubernatorial candidate who exited the race last week and placed her support behind Baker.

The question is, which of these strategies will prevail? Will it be Baker or Jealous who is propelled to the Democratic nomination to face Gov. Larry Hogan?

A subtext of the battle for the Democratic nomination is Jealous’ support being energized by the power of the unions in the state and their  prowess to organize and mobilize their people, versus the far reaching tentacles of the state’s Democratic machine in service of Baker, which is also formidable at mobilizing Democratic voters.

Ultimately, it will most likely be Baker or Jealous who will face Hogan, who enjoys a stunning 75 percent of Maryland voters approving of the job he is doing, while his personal popularity stands at 64 percent. Hogan’s strategy of distancing himself from the poisonous Donald Trump seems to be resonating in Maryland. And if it wasn’t clear enough that Hogan wants nothing to do with Trump’s enormous political baggage, the governor announced this week that he will join several other governors, who will pull National Guard support from the U.S. southern border, in wake of Trump’s draconian immigration policy separating children from parents seeking asylum.

On June 19, Hogan recalled a National Guard helicopter and four crew members from service in New Mexico.

“Until this policy of separating children from their families has been rescinded, Maryland will not deploy any National Guard resources to the border,” Hogan said via Twitter.

Sean Yoes (Courtesy Photo)

But, more daunting to the ultimate winner of the Democratic nomination beyond Hogan’s popularity in the state among Republicans and Democrats is his vast financial war chest, which he has not had to spend a dime on fighting Republican challengers. He is running unopposed and should be well rested for the sprint to November.

Sean Yoes is the Baltimore Editor of the AFRO.