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On the final day of interviews with Maryland gubernatorial candidates, former State Senator Bobby Zirkin spoke with Democratic candidate John King. King, who served as the U.S. Secretary of Education under President Obama, said his life was shaped by his childhood experiences. His parents, both educators, passed away when King was very young, and he found refuge in school. He encountered difficulties after the death of his parents, but was fortunate to have teachers who gave him second chances, and he ultimately chose a career in education. Since the end of the Obama Administration, King has been running an education civil rights organization. He believes children and their education are greatly affected by all of the other systems, and he believes the next leader of Maryland will be someone who can “make government a force for good in people’s lives much the way school was a force for good in [his] life.”

The three core pillars King’s administration would focus on are education, including the Blueprint for Education, economic development and economic dignity, which he characterized as creating jobs and helping people obtain the skills necessary to fill them and providing family leave and access to housing that is affordable, and the environment, which means in part protecting the Chesapeake. King believes the strong state revenue picture and the influx of federal funding can pay for the Blueprint until at least 2026. At the end of the day, he thinks that it is important to invest in the children of Maryland, and “fairer” taxation may be required to fund the Blueprint in the future. He opined, “just tax fairness, making sure everybody is paying fairly into the system, will get us a good distance towards the investment we need.”  

Zirkin then focused the discussion on public safety. King said he is certain we can have “public safety and civil rights protection at the same time” and thinks the General Assembly did a good job with its police reform measures last session. King believes Maryland needs police but it also needs addiction treatment, more mental health services, and greater violence prevention, to help reduce the rate of crime and murders in the short term, while education and economic development are critical to reducing crime long term. King stated no one would argue that violent criminals should not face significant penalties, but he does not feel that imposing longer sentences achieves the goal of reducing violent crime. Instead, he said we should view prison as a place for rehabilitation and provide inmates with programs that help people leave productive lives after they are released. 

The interview concluded with King emphasizing that he brings two things to the state: “ a very clear progressive vision for how we move the state towards greater equity, greater justice, and greater prosperity, and the experience, at the local level, state level, and federal level, of getting big things done in the government.” He noted that some of his running mates have no experience in the government, while he does, and can deliver on his objectives. As such, he hopes people will support him. 

You can view John King’s entire interview here