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WBAL 2022 Maryland governor – candidate profile: John King

4/17/2022 | WBAL Staff


As part of our Commitment 2022 coverage from 11 News, has the information you need to cast your vote for Maryland governor in 2022.

The following responses are from John King, Democratic candidate for governor. He is 47 years old and was born in New York, New York. He is president of the Education Trust, and he is a former U.S. secretary of education under President Barack Obama. His running mate is Michelle Daugherty Siri.

QUESTION 1: What is your plan to improve Maryland’s infrastructure?

I know firsthand what it’s like to deal with Beltway traffic and the frustrations Marylanders experience from the gaps in our state’s public transit system. Between the cancellation of Baltimore’s Red Line and delays with the Purple Line, the Hogan administration has been a disaster for equitable, accessible and smart public transit. Additionally, the administration has doubled down on abandoning public transportation with its diversion of resources and attention to highway expansion with expensive private toll lanes that will do nothing to solve our traffic problems.

Besides forfeiting federal funds, Gov. Larry Hogan’s cancellation of the Red Line project disproportionately harmed Black communities in Baltimore, with the Obama administration even opening a civil rights investigation into the cancellation. Unfortunately, this complaint was closed by the Trump Justice Department.

The Purple Line, meanwhile, has seen years of delays and cost overruns, in part, driven by cuts to state money for the project and the Hogan administration valuing the cheapest bid over quality. Maryland taxpayers deserve to have their tax dollars used on public projects that will benefit them, not on so-called “public-private partnerships” that run over budget and behind schedule.

As governor, I will:

  • Reactivate the plan for the Baltimore Red Line.
  • Ensure completion of the Purple Line.
  • Partner with the Biden administration to put public transit — including light rail like the proposed Southern Maryland Rapid Transit project and efficient bus service — at the center of Maryland’s transportation policy.
  • Develop incentives to create more sustainable communities and neighborhoods.
  • Make sure Maryland’s transportation options are serving all Marylanders, not just those in wealthier neighborhoods.
  • Fight against the construction of private toll lanes.
  • Invest in the MARC Train to make it more user friendly, increase the frequency of trains, and extend it west.

Additionally, Maryland communities are already beginning to feel the ravages of climate change. Marylanders are seeing the cost of inaction firsthand across the state. In the last five years, Ellicott City has been devastated with two 1,000-year floods that have taken lives and livelihoods. In Dorchester County, rising sea levels are threatening jobs, historical sites and housing. Droughts have devastated Maryland farmers and left them with tough decisions about their crops. And, according to a 2016 report by the Maryland Department of Health, increased heat waves in Baltimore City have led to higher levels of asthma.

To equip communities to face the climate challenges ahead and build healthy and resilient communities, I will:

  • Ensure all public buildings (including schools and higher education campuses) are powered by renewable energy by 2030 and all state vehicles, transit buses and school buses are electric by 2030
  • Build 10,000 fast-charging stations to facilitate the transition to electric vehicles
  • Invest in infrastructure resilience and planning
  • Invest in storm-water management infrastructure
  • Invest in resilience hubs, particularly in under-resourced communities
  • Support healthy communities by expanding access to sustainable, walkable, transit-friendly communities and locally grown food.
  • Support improved waste management strategies — including composting — to reduce emissions and pollution.

QUESTION 2: What specifically will you do to improve education in Maryland?

I know firsthand the power of public schools. By the time I was 12, both of my parents passed away. Like many kids who have suffered trauma, I struggled; I got into trouble and was kicked out of high school. It was public school educators that saved my life and inspired me to become an educator myself. From my time as a teacher and principal, and as the nation’s first Afro-Latino secretary of education under President Barack Obama, I have spent my entire career fighting for strong public education and opportunity for every student, especially those most underserved.

Maryland was once a national leader when it came to public education. But sadly, eight years of inadequate investment and lackluster executive leadership caused Maryland’s public schools to fall behind, and the learning disruption from COVID-19 has exacerbated these challenges.

Maryland needs a governor who can build on the success of the Kirwan Commission and the Legislature’s recent commitment through the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future to historic investment in public education. As a lifelong educator, I know how important it will be to make sure the Blueprint is not only properly implemented and funded, but that educators have a seat at the table to help guide the process every step of the way.

Since leaving the Department of Education at the end of the Obama administration, I have been the president of a leading national civil rights education nonprofit that has been tackling the inequities in public education for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds head on. As the next governor of Maryland, I will ensure that educational equity is at the forefront of the policymaking process.

Specifically, I will build on the Blueprint by ensuring that public money goes to public schools; recognizing, supporting, diversifying the educator workforce in Maryland; preparing students for college and careers (including launching strong career and technical education programs in every community linked to good 21st century jobs and supporting innovative school models); helping all students learn and love to read; and ensuring a historically accurate education.

Support and sustain a diverse educator workforce by increasing starting salaries; increasing student loan forgiveness for educators who work at high-needs schools; and improving pipelines to train and hire more diverse teachers (including bilingual teachers).

I will help our students recover from the setbacks of COVID-19 by:

Developing a statewide Student Support Corps to allow adults (including recent college graduates and retired teachers) to provide Maryland students with academic, social and emotional support.

Providing all students with additional learning and enrichment activities, during the school year and over the summer.

Supporting and improving the mental and physical health of Maryland’s students, their families and educators — including hiring more school counselors.

Building new school buildings and modernizing existing ones, so that no student misses class because it’s too hot or has to wear a jacket and gloves in class.

You can find my full plan to guarantee every child in Maryland a world-class public education here.

QUESTION 3: How will you improve Maryland’s economy and grow jobs?

Maryland may be one of the wealthiest states in the union, but for far too long, that success has not been widely shared enough. As an educator, I know firsthand how young people are affected by the different systems that are part of their lives, including the need for economic stability at home.

Maryland needs an economy that recognizes the dignity of work from all its people and breaks down the structural barriers that have for far too long held back so many Black and brown entrepreneurs. COVID-19 and the related economic challenges have had a disparate negative impact on low-income communities and communities of color, disproportionately pushed women — especially women of color — out of the workforce or into economic crisis, and subjected countless Marylanders to housing and food insecurity.

As we continue to recover from the pandemic, the gross inequity in our economy has become clearer. As governor, I will rebuild Maryland’s unemployment system so that it provides the support it needs to.

As small businesses continue to try and survive the pandemic, access to capital and loans has not been made equitably available. As governor, I will work to break down the structures that create barriers to equity in our system.

Maryland has one of the worst wealth gaps in the country with the highest earners making more than 17 times the lowest earners. Contributing to this problem is Maryland’s regressive tax system that has the highest earners (those making over $1 million) actually paying less as a percentage of their income in taxes than middle-income earners. I understand the dignity in all work, and, as governor, would reverse these regressive tax policies.

As governor, I will:

  • Leverage Maryland’s assets (including highly educated workforce, NIH, FDA, Johns Hopkins, the University of Maryland system, etc.) to make the state a national leader in high-wage growth industries including the life sciences (where we need more lab space and support for turning cutting-edge research conducted at Maryland facilities into start-ups), cybersecurity (where greater access to training programs could help Marylanders fill the thousands of open cybersecurity jobs in the region), and green technology (where Maryland is well positioned to become a national leader in off-shore wind, solar, geothermal, etc.)
  • Speed up Maryland’s path to a minimum wage that is a living wage and indexed to inflation.
  • Ensure every Marylander has the right to collectively bargain in their workplace.
  • Strengthen Maryland’s anti-retaliation laws for workers who rightfully speak up about everything from workplace conditions to overtime pay.
  • Invest in the care economy — particularly women-owned businesses — that have been forgotten in our economic recovery efforts.
  • Implement paid family leave.
  • Support small businesses — particularly businesses owned by women and people of color — as Maryland’s engine for economic recovery and growth.
  • Create thousands of good-paying jobs by investing in Maryland’s long-term sustainable infrastructure, including public transit.
  • Establish a Maryland state bank to improve access to capital for entrepreneurs of color and women entrepreneurs as well as developers of mixed-income and affordable housing.

QUESTION 4: What do you believe would help address the issues of crime, disinvestment and poverty in Baltimore City? Do you believe the state has a role?

Gov. Hogan has played dog-whistle politics with Baltimore and refused to provide the city with the resources it needs to be successful. His decision to cancel the Red Line set the economic progress of Baltimore back by decades — restarting the construction of an all-rail Red Line will be one of my top priorities as governor. We must connect people with the areas where jobs are, and the Red Line will do just that.

Baltimore City Public Schools also are in urgent need of investment and innovation. It is unacceptable that there are schools without air conditioning or heat, and that our teachers and students aren’t being given the resources they need (including desperately needed school counselors and mental health services). Launching and/or expanding strong, innovative programs including high quality career and technical education (for example, green technology jobs, port jobs, etc.), early college high schools partnering with local higher education institutions, dual language schools, etc., will help drive improved outcomes.

By reimagining public safety and providing more resources for addiction and mental health specialists we can free up police officers to spend their time investigating and preventing violent crime. That means:

  • Increasing investments in community-centric restorative justice programs that break cycles of incarceration through education, job training and addiction recovery; treat people who are incarcerated with dignity; and make sure there are systems in place that properly support them when they return home.
  • Building on policing reforms that increase trust and accountability between police and the communities they serve and increasing investments in addiction treatment, mental health services, community mediation, rec centers and mentoring programs and violence prevention groups including Safe Streets Baltimore and similar organizations.
  • Expanding economic opportunity, including summer and after-school jobs for teenagers, mixed-use development at the Red Line stops, incentives for hiring returning citizens and other vulnerable populations and investment in neighborhood-based economic development (eliminating food deserts, helping small business owners access capital via the state bank, etc.)

The state government must absolutely play a critical role in rejuvenating Baltimore. As governor, I will partner with local leaders and communities, and make sure that they have a seat at the table.

QUESTION 5: Why are you the right person for the job?

Public school saved my life after both of my parents died, so I know as well as anyone the transformative force for good that government can be in people’s lives. That belief guides my vision for the future of Maryland — a brighter, more just, more equitable future where everyone has the chance to thrive.

As U.S. secretary of education under President Obama, I have the executive experience to deliver on my vision. The Department of Education had a budget $15 billion larger than the current budget of the state of Maryland. During my time at the department as deputy secretary and secretary, we closed opportunity and achievement gaps, achieved what was at the time the highest high school graduation rate in U.S. history, passed the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act, increased participation in quality early childhood education and expanded access to higher education.

I have also laid out the most specific, detailed and progressive policy goals in this race, which you can find at Many of my opponents are content to run on platitudes — but I believe that if we are to build a future where EVERY Marylander has the opportunity to thrive, we must lay out a bold plan to address the many issues our state faces.