Former NAACP president Ben Jealous mulls U.S. Senate bid

Civil rights leader considers campaign for retiring Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski's seat

By Luke Brinker
March 6, 2015 10:57PM (UTC)
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Benjamin Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), speaks to the 2013 NAACP convention in Orlando, Florida July 15, 2013. In the wake of the George Zimmerman murder trial, civil rights leaders, including Jealous, are urging the Justice Department to pursue federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman. REUTERS/David Manning (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW) - RTX11NHS (© David Manning / Reuters)

Benjamin Todd Jealous, who led the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 2008 to 2013, is weighing a run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski next year, according to the New York Times' Maggie Haberman.

Citing two sources "familiar with his thinking," Haberman reports that Jealous is giving the race serious consideration. Should he take the plunge, Jealous would join what's shaping up to be a crowded Democratic race. Rep. Chris Van Hollen has already announced his candidacy, and five of the other six Democrats in Maryland's House delegation are also possible contenders. Other potential candidates include Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and state Delegate Heather Mizeur.


Just 35 when he took the helm of the venerable civil rights organization, Jealous led the NAACP's push for voting rights, criminal justice reform, and death penalty abolition. His tenure was also notable for Jealous' efforts to build coalitions with other groups, including labor, environmental, and LGBT organizations. In an historic 2012 vote, the NAACP formally endorsed marriage equality, backing the civil rights cause shortly after President Barack Obama voiced his support.

With the public's attention increasingly focused on racial disparities following the widely-publicized police killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson Missouri, Staten Island, and Cleveland, a Senate seat would afford Jealous a prominent platform from which to push for measures to address racial justice issues.

Former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume made his own bid for a Maryland Senate seat in 2006, narrowly losing the Democratic nomination to now-Sen. Ben Cardin.


Since leaving the NAACP nearly two years ago, Jealous has worked for the Center for American Progress and the Oakland-based investment arm of the Kapor Center for Social Impact.

Luke Brinker

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