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Former NAACP President Ben Jealous Enters Maryland Governor’s Race

BALTIMORE— Former NAACP president Ben Jealous announced Wednesday that he's running for governor of Maryland as a progressive Democrat, and in doing so he repeatedly tried to link popular incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to President Donald Trump.

Jealous, who is running in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1, could be running in a crowded primary to challenge Hogan next year. Like a lot of Maryland Democrats these days, Jealous criticized Hogan for not speaking out against Trump's policies.

"We come together today both relieved that we live in a state as prosperous and full of promise as Maryland, and yet increasingly alarmed, as it seems like every week our governor becomes a little more like the lion in the Wizard of Oz: all strength and no political courage," Jealous said.

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Former NAACP chairman Ben Jealous announces his campaign for governor of Maryland during a rally in Baltimore, Wednesday, May 31, 2017. Jealous wills seek the Democratic nomination. (AP Photo/Brian Witte) Brian Witte / AP

In a state where Trump won only 34 percent of the vote, Jealous also criticized Hogan for failing to stand up to members of the Trump administration. Hogan did not vote for Trump, and the governor criticized the president during last year's campaign for his comments about women that were recorded in 2005. Hogan also largely avoids talking about Trump's policies, saying he's focused on Maryland instead of politics in the nation's capital. Still, Democrats in Maryland have attacked the governor for not speaking out more strongly against the president's policies.

"Since President Trump has come into office, he has repeatedly bowed and submitted to the will of the most extreme members of the Trump administration, from president Trump himself to (Education) Secretary (Betsy) DeVos, to EPA chief (Scott) Pruitt to Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions," Jealous said.

Jealous, 44, was the youngest person ever elected to lead the NAACP, at the age of 35. He was president of the Baltimore-based organization, the nation's largest civil rights group, from 2008 to 2013.

Related: NAACP Chairmen: ‘Today Is the First Day of Our Next 100 Years’

Jealous, who co-chaired Bernie Sanders' Maryland campaign in last year's Democratic presidential primary, said he will work to preserve and extend former President Barack Obama's legacy. During his announcement, he touched on a variety of politically progressive values, such as raising the minimum wage. He also said he would close loopholes in the state's corporate income tax.

Under Jealous, the NAACP worked to abolish death penalty laws, opposed "stop-and-frisk" police tactics and "stand-your-ground" self-defense laws, and embraced gay rights in a historic 2012 vote to support same-sex marriage rights. Jealous also was credited with boosting the organization's finances and helping to stabilize it.

Jealous said he considers himself an underdog in the statewide race, but that his skills as an organizer and his ability to bring people together will help him prevail.

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Ben Jealous, 44, former president and CEO of the NAACP, announces his bid to be the Democratic party's nominee to challenge Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, Wednesday, May 31, 2017, in West Baltimore. (Kenneth K. Lam/The Baltimore Sun via AP) Kenneth K. Lam / AP

"I come into this as the guy who doesn't have a job in politics right now, and I come into this as somebody who knows how to organize and pull folks together to win," Jealous told reporters after his campaign announcement in front of his cousin's Baltimore flower store. "We are up to the challenge, we are ready for the fight and we will win."

Louise Keating, a Democrat from Windsor Mill, Maryland, who attended the rally, said she believes Jealous has the skills to be governor.

"He's got a vision for the state," Keating said.

Jealous lives in Pasadena, Maryland, in Anne Arundel County. He moved from Montgomery County in 2014.