Jealous quick to pounce on Trump immigration comment

Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous speaks at a news conference in June alongside his running mate Susie Turnbull (right) in Baltimore. (Photo: AP/Patrick Semansky)

Maryland Democrat Ben Jealous quickly pounced Friday on President Donald Trump’s recent criticism of his proposal to provide free college tuition for immigrants.

Jealous, whose campaign for governor has struggled to raise money for television advertising, capitalized on Trump’s calling attention to him during a speech in Montana, even if not by name.

“In Maryland, the Democrat candidate for governor wants to give illegal aliens free college tuition courtesy of the American taxpayer,” Trump said Thursday night, as the audience booed the idea. “Come on in, free college.”

The next morning, Jealous highlighted his work on Maryland’s Dream Act, which allows immigrants in the country illegally to pay in-state tuition at public colleges, if they meet certain qualifications. Maryland lawmakers passed the legislation in 2012, and Maryland voters approved it with 59 percent of the vote.

“As Donald Trump continues to use hateful rhetoric that seeks to divide us, we need courageous leadership at the state level willing to stand up for Maryland values,” Jealous said in a statement. “I’ve put out a clear plan that says any Maryland high school graduate can attend community college tuition-free and that includes DREAMers, who were brought to this country as children through no fault of their own.”

Jealous also pivoted swiftly to his opponent, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, and called on him to “reject this divisive rhetoric.”

Maryland Democrats have been trying to link Hogan to Trump, who is unpopular in Maryland, but Hogan has distanced himself from the president. The governor remains popular in a heavily Democratic state, and he has been leading in polls in the matchup with Jealous.

Scott Sloofman, a spokesman for Hogan’s campaign, said the governor “has done things differently than they do in Washington, D.C., working in a bipartisan fashion that has kept us out of the partisan bickering and dysfunction.”

“Legislation enacted by the governor expanded Promise Scholarships in our community colleges, and his current proposal to further expand these scholarships to four year public institutions, benefits all Maryland residents in need, including Dreamers,” Sloofman said. “If Ben Jealous knew anything about what has gone on in Maryland over the past four years, he would understand that we’ve been working together in a bipartisan way to make this happen, and Marylanders have no interest in the hyper partisan fights he so clearly relishes.”

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