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John B. King Jr. raises critical race theory in first campaign ad

12/6/2021 | Erin Cox

Washington Post

John B. King Jr. released his first campaign ad in Maryland’s Democratic primary race for governor on Monday, addressing critical race theory and calling systemic racism “the truth.”

King’s ad highlights his family’s ascension from slavery to his post in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet and draws contrasts with conservative leaders who have decried critical race theory as bigoted.

“Some far-right politicians want to erase my story,” he says.

The 60-second Web ad, backed by what King’s campaign said was a “six-figure” media purchase, builds on his campaign theme of using education to bridge gaps in wealth, justice and health that put many of Maryland’s Black families at a disadvantage. In the ad, King says “the truth” is that those gaps “are tied to the history of slavery.”

“As a teacher, school principal, and President Obama’s secretary of education, I know that truth matters,” King says in the ad. “We’re strong enough to acknowledge injustice and see the power of progress.”

Conservatives have elevated critical race theory — an intellectual movement that examines the way policies and laws perpetuate systemic racism — into a flash point in the country’s culture wars. It has become a shorthand for teaching the legacy of systemic racism in schools and rallied voters to Republican candidates, notably with the election of Glenn Youngkin (R) as governor in Virginia.

King opens his campaign ad with footage of conservative commentator Tucker Carlson and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) criticizing critical race theory as dangerous and racist. The ad is the only digital one running in the crowded and wide-open race to be Maryland’s governor, after Baltimore-based business owner and tech entrepreneur Mike Rosenbaum dropped out last week.

King is one of eight candidates remaining in the all-male field seeking Maryland’s Democratic nomination. Despite Democrats’ commanding advantage in voter registrations and overwhelming majorities in state and federal delegations, Maryland has elected a Republican governor in three out of the past five elections. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is term-limited and not seeking reelection.

The other seven Democratic candidates are former U.S. labor secretary Tom Perez; Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot; former state attorney general Douglas F. Gansler; author and former nonprofit chief executive Wes Moore; former Prince George’s County executive Rushern L. Baker III; former nonprofit executive Jon Baron; and former Montgomery County Council candidate Ashwani Jain.

There are three candidates running for the Republican nomination: Kelly M. Schulz, the state’s commerce secretary; perennial candidate and former state legislator ­Robin Ficker; and Del. Daniel L. Cox, a conservative legislator from Frederick County.