By Brandan Rogowski
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Alec Ross, who entered the 2018 gubernatorial race in April, said he is seeking the Democratic nomination to face-off against popular Republican Gov. Larry Hogan because he wants to stop the injustices he has witnessed in Baltimore over the past 23 years.
With experience teaching at Booker T. Washington Middle School, co-founding the non-profit One Economy Corporation, and serving as the senior advisor for innovation for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from 2009 to 2013, Ross said he is hoping to bring his innovative mindset to Maryland politics.
Though he has never held elected public office, Ross said his experience working with Clinton gives him a unique résumé.
“I have experience seeing how government can be a very powerful instrument for good,” Ross said in an interview. “In the four years I worked at the State Department for Hillary Clinton, the programs that I ran helped people all over the world. And I came out of the experience believing strongly that when there is good government, it can really improve people’s lives.”
As a former social studies and language arts teacher in the Baltimore City public schools, Ross’s biggest campaign focus is on bettering public education.
“No one thing determines future well-being but the thing that comes the closest is education,” Ross said. “I’m very focused on strengthening public education in Maryland.”
Former Gov. Martin O’Malley agrees that Maryland schools need improvement.
“Maryland’s public schools have dropped from first in the nation — an achievement we held for five years in a row — to fifth and declining now under Hogan,” O’Malley said in an email interview.
According to the governor’s website, Hogan’s administration has invested a record $12.4 billion in K-12 public education and funding per-student has increased in every jurisdiction in the state.
Ross said he wants to improve technology expertise in the state’s schools.
“One thing that I’m focused on is computer science education,” Ross said. “Computer code is the alphabet that much of the future is going to be written in. If we want young people to compete in tomorrow’s world then they need to be fluent in that language.”
“There’s practically no computer science education in Baltimore City and there’s only 40 percent of public schools in Maryland generally with computer science education,” Ross said. “I want to get that up to 100 percent.”
Another large-scale improvement that Ross wants to make is in Maryland’s mass transit.
“We have 20th century transportation infrastructure in a 21st century world,” Ross said.
Ross said he wants to recommit the state government to environmental stewardship.
“We only have one Chesapeake Bay and I think we need to cherish it and make sure it’s clean and that people can live and work around there without getting sick,” Ross said.
Ross said his innovative mindset can be used effectively in government.
“We need new faces and new ideas,” Ross said. “We can innovate in government. I want to bring a mindset that the 6 million citizens of Maryland are the customers of the government of Maryland. And the government is there to serve its citizens.”
O’Malley said in an email that he believes Hogan’s mindset is with corporations, not citizens.
“In fight after fight he sides with corporate profits at the expense of Maryland consumers,” O’Malley said.
Hogan’s office was unavailable for a response.
Ross said he wants more transparency in government spending.
“We spend $43.4 billion every year in state government in Maryland. Taxpayers should know how every one of those $43.4 billion is spent,” Ross said.
Ross also wants to bring a $15 minimum wage to Maryland and allow for easier access to voting, including allowing prisoners to vote.
“We should not strip people of their citizenship when they go to jail,” Ross said.
Ross married the math teacher across the hall from his class at Booker T. Washington Middle School. They have three children who are all in Baltimore City public schools.
In addition to other projects, Ross has worked with Project Vote to bring easier voter registration to minorities and worked three years in affordable housing developments.
“I’m more interested in taking stands that are the right thing to do as opposed to the popular thing to do,” Ross said. “My goal is I want to be a great governor.”