Wes Moore, Maryland’s First African American Governor, Swears In and Signs Off on $69 Million Legislative Package


Elvert Barnes

“Wes Moore election eve rally at Bowie State University” by Elvert Barnes is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

Kai Englisch

On Wednesday, January 18th, Maryland saw their 63rd governor elect Wes Moore sworn in on the blue carpeted steps of the Annapolis State Capitol building, while hopeful hundreds turned out on the unusually warm winter day to watch the proceedings. The ceremony comes after a successful gubernatorial campaign called on November 8th, which saw Moore – a former Rhodes Scholar, US army veteran, and nonprofit CEO – defeat conservative challenger Dan Cox by a state record two thirds majority, taking an office previously held by two term Republican Governor Larry Hogan since 2015.

“Public Swearing In” by Maryland GovPics is licensed under CC Attribution 2.0

Taking place just blocks away from historical slave import docks, days after that Monday’s commemoration of famed activist Martin Luther King, Jr. Moore swore in on famed abolitionist Frederick Douglas’ own personal Bible. The occasion made history as Moore became becomes Maryland’s first African American governor, and just the country’s third.

“This day has been a long time coming,” boomed Steuart Pittman, Anne Arundel county executive and the day’s master of ceremonies, as Moore and his family attentively. Moore for his part looked to be in agreement, and beamed with pride as his nine year old son led those gathered in the recitation of the pledge of allegiance.

Moore has lived in Maryland with his wife Dawn Moore since 2006, residing in multiple residences, including Baltimore and Guilford, before their current move to the “Government House,” the official Annapolis residence of the Maryland governor. The Moores will reside there with their two children, one boy and one girl.

“Aruna Miller at Clubs of Color” by Edward Kimmel is licensed under CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

Also of historic note was Moore’s running mate and now Maryland’s first Indian American Lt. governor Aruna Miller. Swearing in on a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, Miller, whose three daughters opened for their mother with loving words of congratulation, then spoke centered around a theme of hope and progress. “We see you and we will fight for you. We will address the inequities of the past and build a Maryland where everyone will thrive” she said, addressing the cheering crowd.

Miller, a career transportation engineer, has been a resident of Maryland since 1990, and currently lives in Darnestown with her husband. The pair have three daughters together.

“Public Swearing” by Maryland GovPics is licensed under CC Attribution 2.0

The widely broadcasted event also featured a lineup of musical performances and personal guests of Moore’s. A rendition of the national anthem initiated the program, sung by “The Voice” finalist Parajita Bastola, followed by singing from the US Naval Academy’s glee club and the Morgan State University Choir interspersed throughout the hour and a half proceedings. Speaking guests included Lt. Jaime Gonzalez, a US army veteran who served alongside Moore in Afghanistan, and famed tv talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who befriended Moore the new governor after an interview he gave while promoting his book on Winfrey’s show “OWN” in 2016. Seen mouthing the words alongside the rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the widely-celebrated Winfrey made an appearance to give a speech congratulating Moore and spoke admiringly of his character, a running theme among guests.

“I was impressed even thenHe had a vision for who he wanted to be and a plan for how to get there,” spoke Winfrey of their 2016 interview.

She then told of a phone call with Moore “on January 6th, as a matter of fact,” during which he revealed his bid for the governorship, a move that “surprised” her. “As he was telling me, I was seeing the CNN screen behind him, and that’s the first I knew of the invasion of the Capitol. I said ‘look at what’s happening. You want to run in this climate?’ and he said ‘Exactly. Exactly.’”

In a national political reality marked by uncertainty, exemplified most recently by now House speaker Kevin McCarthy’s unprecedented fifteen attempt bid to win the position, investigations into personal possession of top secret documents by both the current and penultimate president, and a current quasi-annual debate about a looming debt ceiling, many hope that Moore can be a decisive voice in the state for change and hope. Moore himself intends to be that voice, running on a platform emphasizing educational reform, inclusive economic policy, and an overarching message of social justice for minority groups.

“Day One Executive Orders and Unreleased Budget Action” by Maryland GovPics is licensed under CC Attribution 2.0

In his first twenty four hours in office, Governor Moore has already signed off his approval on a legislative package totaling some $69 million that includes action on abortion, climate change, recreational marijuana use, and paid family leave programs. The money was released late the morning of January the 19th with Moore’s signature, which had been signed into law last year but was previously withheld by former governor Larry Hogan over clashes with a Democratic majority state assembly.

“The investments impact every community in Maryland,” said Governor Moore in a press release. Funding from the bill promotes causes that including $3.5 million to be allocated towards expanded abortion training, $9 million for multiple policies combating climate change, and $40 million to support the growth of new Cannabis businesses, after its legalization last November.

“This action shows a fundamental shift in how the administration approaches the budget and our relationship with the General Assembly as we boldly act on critical issues facing Marylanders everywhere like climate change, paid family and medical leave, cannabis reform, and abortion care.”

With Moore’s gubernatorial reign a week underway, the honeymoon period is sure to fade soon, leaving the reality of enacting political change. But it is clear that many are excited for the energy, passion, and intellect the governor brings to the position. Only time will tell what the next four years bring.