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Political Purpose: Rich Madaleno could be America’s first out gay man elected governor
“…in 2002, Madaleno ran for and won a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates, where he served for four years, before running for the Maryland State Senate in 2006, where he found that being gay didn’t matter.
“I had a slightly different experience than some others in a similar situation in other offices around the country, because I had spent time working in Annapolis,” he says. “People knew me. So I already had a reputation going into the legislature as a thoughtful, serious thinker who knew a tremendous amount about the fiscal policy of the state. I wasn’t going in the door as ‘the gay one from Montgomery County.’”
Madaleno’s private life, meanwhile, followed somewhat of an ideal course. He met his husband, Mark, then a pediatric nurse, in 1999 after they were set up by friends. Their first date, at a coffee shop on a Friday night, turned into a four-hour conversation. Two days later, unbeknownst to each other, both men participated in AIDS Walk in Washington, D.C.
“I came up the escalator at the Smithsonian Metro station to check in and I walked right into him,” says Madaleno. “We wound up spending the whole walk talking and sharing the experience.”
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Two years later, they married. In 2003, when the couple adopted a daughter. Four years later, they adopted a boy.
“I’ll say we’ve been married for coming up on 16 years and people will say, ‘Oh, where did you get married? Did you get married in Canada?’ And I say, ‘No, we got married in our church in Bethesda,’” says Madaleno. “Did we have a marriage license at the time? No. But that didn’t make it any less of a marriage and a commitment. And that was part of the theme that I used through the whole debate over relationship recognition, and then on to marriage equality: we are married. We are married in the eyes of our friends, of our family, of our church. The government just has to catch up to our reality.”
Madaleno is committed to helping the government in that effort, and potentially from a higher office than ever before. After years of being mentioned as a possible candidate, he’s jumped into the fray for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican governor Larry Hogan in November 2018.
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MW: What made you decide to run for office?
MADALENO: The ability to do good for a vast number of people. I do believe that we all have a responsibility to work towards improving the world around us. I think part of the human experience is making sure that you leave your community — whether that is the few members of your family, your larger community, the country, the world — a better place than when you came into it. I’ve always viewed public service and elected office as the best avenue for me to do that, to work to make life better for our community and our state and the people who will follow us.
MW: Why have you now opted to run for governor?
MADALENO: For a variety of reasons. One, I think our state is not moving in the right direction. The way I look at it is, change is inevitable but growth is optional. Maryland simply is not growing in any sort of meaningful way that’s positioning ourselves to be a prosperous community for the 21st century, and without bold leadership from the governor, the state simply isn’t going to make progress.
When I looked around at some of the issues that I cared about, and I looked around for candidates that I thought would be able to carry the mantle and make progress on the things that I care about, I couldn’t find them, and just came to the conclusion of, “All right, if these are the issues that you think are important and these are the issues that you think the people of Maryland should be having a conversation [about], then instead of trying to find someone else to do that, maybe you should just step up and do it.”
When I looked around at the other candidates in the Democratic field, no one has the depth of experience at state issues that I have. Maybe the public’s view of experience amongst political candidates is starting to shift after our Maryland experience with Larry Hogan and our national experience with Donald Trump. Maybe this fascination for the outsider to come in and change everything when they don’t have experience and they don’t have relationships actually isn’t the way to make progress.
The way to make progress is to elect somebody, just like you would elevate somebody in other fields, who has knowledge and experience in the field, has relationships with people. One that can actually start from day one in making progress.
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MW: If you win, you’ll become the first openly gay man to be elected governor of a state, and likely asked to prioritize the issues of the LGBTQ community. How do you balance the needs of the LGBTQ community with the needs of the broader electorate?
MADALENO: I think it would be in much the same manner that I’ve accomplished it over the last 15 years as a legislator. It is recognizing that I, just like any other elected official from a minority group, say a Latino, an African-American, a woman, whatever you want to say across the board where it’s a non-straight white male. You have that additional responsibility to fight for those issues. You bring a level of understanding and depth to the table that other people don’t necessarily have.
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I hope you enjoyed the excerpts above, or the entire interview. I ask for your support so that we can take our message to the people of Maryland. Click HERE to contribute safely and securely.
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