by Jimmy Yates and Jenna Bloom ‘21
Ashwani Jain, a second-generation Indian immigrant born and raised in Montgomery County, has entered the 2022 race for governor. After graduating from the University of Maryland, Jain worked in the Obama administration in the Department of Health and Human Resources. He later ran for Montgomery County Council and came in eighth out of 33 candidates. Current Governor Larry Hogan is term-limited and will not be up for re-election, but Jain, one of two democratic candidates to have already declared for the race, will likely run in a crowded field of candidates.
Jain’s passion for helping others began after his diagnosis with cancer at the age of 13. His isolation sparked inspiration, and he thought, “if I’m given a second chance at life I better make it count.” Jain explained in an interview over Zoom with staff of The Warrior newspaper, “that’s when I turned from survivor to advocate. I transformed my pain into public service in order to make change for other people.” Following his cancer treatments, the Make-a-Wish foundation reached out and gave him the opportunity to meet his hero: Denzel Washington. Then, he volunteered with Make-a-Wish to help others feel the same joy he felt previously.
Centered around his “Relief, Recovery, Reform” plan, Jain is committed to ensuring a safe and equitable return to school for students and staff, tackling the lingering effects of Covid-19 and its economic impact, and the rising threat of climate change, among many other issues. Jain’s platform places a large emphasis on equal education while balancing a safe return to in-person learning. He plans to reduce the teacher shortage and increase the pipeline of diverse educators by creating other avenues for attaining educational requirements, making affordable housing available, and forgiving the student debt of aspiring educators. For students, he plans to put mental health at the forefront of schools, elevating mental health services that are available to provide support before it’s too late.
In terms of the students who have fallen behind in virtual learning, Jain is committed to including people with different backgrounds in his leadership team, especially those who are tutoring and interacting with lower-income students. He wants to make sure that while looking at school budgets, Maryland is re-prioritizing funds to give ESOL educators the resources they need to take care of these students. But, Jain said, “we have to be very careful about opening up. The current administration is not making sure enough people are vaccinated, which places people at a severe disadvantage.”
Covid-19 has left a long-lasting impact on the nation, and Jain outlines his plan to provide relief and recovery to those who have suffered. He introduces his plan to provide financial incentives and support to ensure that people can keep paying their employees and have the capital to adapt their businesses to the temporary norms. This includes creating standard small-business protocols and support for pandemic-related business innovation, mandating masks for customers when any infectious diseases are involved, ensuring all businesses have the proper tools to stay Covid safe, and more. He will also create a Virus Emergency Task Force that will report directly to the Governor, cutting through the bureaucratic red tape.
Pointing out the threat to Maryland’s shorelines from rising sea levels, Jain highlights climate change as one of the most critical issues that need to be dealt with. He plans to deactivate all coal power plants in Maryland and rejoin the Regional Transportation Climate Initiative. Jain wants to rely on clean energy and turn away from carbon-emitting fossil fuel energy sources and practices such as fracking, trash incinerating, and coal power plants. He also plans to install solar panels on all school and government buildings to utilize such spaces that receive direct sunlight that is usually wasted.
As a Maryland high schooler, Jain “was always dismissed or talked down to because of [his] age.” He wants to counteract his past experiences by adding students’ voices to the table and having open conversations with every secondary school across the state. He has noticed a disconnect between politician’s words and actions, where “they say they want more young and POC voices at the table but don’t fully support it.” He currently has 80 senior volunteers on his advisory team, half of them have years of experience in campaigning and politics, and the other half are middle/high schoolers and college students.
“I want to make sure people have a seat at the table where decisions about their lives are made, and that happens through representation,” Jain said, as he could serve as the nation’s first millennial Governor and Maryland’s first of color. “I want to make sure young people feel included and that their voices are heard. In every election cycle, candidates talk about important issues in buckets, even though they are all interconnected. Leaders need to address them right away and look at the short and long term so they actually get fixed.”