Looks Like Ben Jealous Winning The Maryland Governor Primary Could Be For Real

It looks like a close one in Maryland.

The Maryland Democratic primary for governor is a toss-up between the two top candidates, with former NAACP president and CEO Ben Jealous surging, according to a new poll made available to BuzzFeed News Tuesday.

The poll was commissioned by Maryland Together We Rise, a pro-Jealous independent expenditure campaign, and conducted by Brilliant Corners Research and Strategies from May 22 to 27. The poll, which queried 600 likely voters in the primary, has Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker leading the field at 22%, with Jealous just behind him at 21%.

The Brilliant Corners poll found that Jealous and Baker are holding down their geographical bases in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, respectively. A memo accompanying the results said that a third of voters in the June 26 primary are undecided, however, with three weeks left to fight for those votes. "Whichever of the two candidates garners the resources to most effectively communicate, in the closing month, will be well-positioned to win," it said.

At the same time, a Washington Post–University of Maryland poll out Tuesday has Jealous with a five-point lead.

A wide array of national figures have endorsed Jealous, who campaigned aggressively on behalf of Bernie Sanders in 2016 — from Sen. Kamala Harris to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, to an array of progressive groups. Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen, meanwhile, has backed Baker. It's the rare Democratic primary where both of the top candidates are black, in a year in which some Democrats have reckoned with a lack of candidates of color at the top of tickets.

Either way, though, any nominee will face a big challenge in November against Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who's extremely popular in the state. An independent poll showed Baker and Jealous with double-digit deficits in potential matchups against Hogan.

A February poll had Baker as the frontrunner, and the late Kevin Kamenetz in second at 12%. (Jealous polled third at 10%.) The race took a sudden and tragic turn with Kamenetz’s death on the early morning of May 10 following a cardiac arrest. He was succeeded in the race by Valerie Ervin, who had been Kamenetz’s running mate for lieutenant governor. Ervin is polling at 7% but is fighting for ballot recognition.