Photo: Alex Wong (Getty Images)

Former NAACP President Ben Jealous knows that even after emerging victorious in a crowded Maryland Democratic primary on Tuesday to crush Rushern Baker by more than 10 percentage points, he still has a fight on his hands.

That’s because the current governor of Maryland, Republican Larry Hogan, is shockingly beloved in an overwhelmingly Democratic state. Hogan not only proudly boasts that he didn’t vote for Donald Trump, but is even being touted as the “Un-Trump Republican” by the Washington Post for his refusal to blindly go along with the dictator in chief just because he, too, is a Republican.

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Hogan’s approval ratings hover around the 60s and topped out at 71 percent in January, according to the New York Times. And a Washington Post poll has Hogan ahead of Jealous in a hypothetical election by 12 points.

But Jealous knows that hypothetical words always get thrown before hypothetical punches. And he’s ready for a fight.

“You tell us beating Hogan is like beating Everest? Well, we just climbed K2,” Jealous said at a news conference Wednesday, referring to the world’s second-highest mountain. “If you can climb K2, you can climb Everest.”

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Jealous has never held an elected office, but he’s not letting that stop him. And had he listened to pundits before entering the Democratic primary, he very well may have just withdrawn his name altogether.

That’s because well-liked and well-known Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, who had the backing of top Maryland Democrats including Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Rep. Steny Hoyer and Attorney General Brian Frosh, was supposed to take the election handily.

Well, just like the triumph of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York, what’s supposed to happen doesn’t always go as planned. Ocasio-Cortez stunned the Democratic establishment by trouncing the plans for Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) to become the next big name in the House.

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It appears that there may be a new dawn on the horizon, where people are tired of the status quo and looking for fresh, energetic, progressive faces to pump new blood into a stagnant system. Consider it the anti-Trump effect.

And the mud-slinging has already begun. According to the New York Times, Hogan and his folks have already begun trying to paint Jealous as a “free-spending candidate of the extreme left.”

“His risky and irresponsible schemes would require massive middle-class tax hikes that would wreck our economy and put thousands out of work,” Scott Sloofman, Hogan’s communications director, told the Times.

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Hogan also has a huge fundraising edge over Jealous. As the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports: “Mr. Hogan reported having about $8.2 million this month, compared to about $260,000 for Mr. Jealous ... ”

But Jealous isn’t worried. “We raised money faster than any other campaign we were up against, and now that we’re in the general, it’ll be even easier, so we feel good,” he told the Post-Gazette. “We’ve got work to do, but we feel good.”

Anything can happen between now and November, but however it shakes out, Jealous isn’t going anywhere, and it might be time for the people of Maryland to take a long, hard sniff at a breath of fresh air.

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