By Luke Broadwater

Having raised $3.5 million in just a few months, the newly formed Black Economic Alliance on Monday endorsed Democrat Ben Jealous for governor of Maryland -- and pledged to give him financial support.

The group said it would be backing Jealous, Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, Ohio gubernatorial candidate Rich Cordray and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, all Democrats.

The alliance said it would be supporting Jealous both directly and with independent expenditures -- though organizers did not give specific numbers. They said they would be supporting 10 to 15 candidates this election cycle.

The new group is made up of top black business leaders and advocates who say they are "dedicated to supporting 2018 candidates who have committed to advancing policies that will improve outcome for Black Americans."

Akunna Cook, director of the Black Economic Alliance, said the group will work to address disparities between black Americans and other ethnic groups.

"Black communities in America continue to suffer from institutionalized economic disparities," Cook said. "With 6.7 million unfilled jobs in this country, it's more important than ever that we invest in Black workers and businesses to make the economy work better for everyone. ... But the only way we get there is with a government that is accountable and responsive to the needs of the nation's Black communities when it comes to jobs, pay, and economic opportunity."

Jealous said he was "honored" to receive the support.

"I look forward to working with them in the future to address the specific barriers to economic opportunity that Black families face," he said in a statement.

The group's support for Jealous comes at a time when he is outgunned financially by incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

Hogan and his running mate Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford reported more than $9.3 million on hand before the June 26 primary. Jealous and his running mate Susan Turnbull had less than $400,000.

Meanwhile, the Republican Governors Association has been pounding Jealous with attack ads for a month -- spending more than $1 million on spots targeting the former NAACP president. The deep-pocketed GOP organization said last week that it planned to continue the TV assault with another large ad buy that will stretch throughout August.

To date, Democratic organizations have yet to respond on TV.

(c)2018 The Baltimore Sun