The race for Prince George’s County executive has gone negative, at least between two of the candidates.
The bad blood stems from campaign literature distributed this month to Democratic households by a super PAC backing former Rep. Donna Edwards that accused State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks of fostering a pay-to-play culture.
One of the fliers shows a picture of Edwards to the left “on the side of residents.” A picture of Alsobrooks to the right “on the side of developers.” The message asserts that a politician can win and receive favors depending on who provides that person with the most money.
“We want fair, honest, equitable people to campaign without discrediting one another,” said James Dula, president of the South County Democratic Club, whose organization hasn’t endorsed a candidate. “I was appalled [to see literature]. We are better than that in Prince George’s County.”
According to campaign finance reports, the We Are Prince George’s super PAC, or political action committee, contributed $660,000 worth of campaign signs, polling and other materials. The majority of money on behalf of Edwards comes from two unions, D.C.-based Unite Here Local 25 and LiUNA! (Laborers’ International Union of North America) of Reston, Virginia.
On Tuesday, May 22, the SEIU Local 400 of Gaithersburg announced its endorsement of Edwards. The union represents 17,000 adjunct professors and faculty, child care workers, and graduate student employees.
“This is the first election in many years where working people are coming together to fight back,” Mark Mclaurin, political director for the union, said in a statement. “Developers have their candidate. Working people finally have ours in Donna Edwards.”
Edwards has proclaimed to reject campaign funds from developers. Alsobrooks received the maximum $6,000 from developers and other small donations from about 4,000 people, 70 percent of whom her campaign said are county residents.
Alsobrooks’ campaign released a statement Tuesday on its latest finance report between Jan. 11 and May 15. It raised $300,000 with 80 percent of the contributions from within the county and almost 70 percent $100 or less, according to the campaign.
Meanwhile, the Coalition for Change political action committee wants to assist residents on what to assess in this year’s election.
When it comes to super PACs, the group notes on its website they “are not normally in local elections and could be bad news for Prince George’s County.” Super PACs may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money independent of a candidate.
Sandy Pruitt, who chairs the committee that’s separate from her nonprofit organization in Largo, said Alsobrooks began campaigning months before Edwards and received thousands of small-dollar contributions in comparison to the money on behalf of Edwards.
“County executive and County Council have the most influence on developers,” Pruitt said. “If you’re a developer in the county, you want to kind of get the tea leaves in the beginning on who might win. For Donna to make a big deal out of this is just using that as an excuse.”
A subtle gesture showed how tense the campaign has become. Before a May 19 candidates’ forum at Oxon Hill High School, Edwards and Alsobrooks did not acknowledge each other, but each greeted fellow opponents Paul Monteiro, a former official with the Obama administration; Air Force veteran Billy Bridges; and Jerry Mathis, the lone Republican in the race.
Tommie Thompson, president of Bazilio Cobb Associates with offices in Northwest and Lanham, arrived late, while state Sen. C. Anthony Muse; former lieutenant governor Samuel Bogley II; Lewis B. Johnson, a retiree from the U.S. Government Printing Office on Capitol Hill; and Michael E. Kennedy skipped the event altogether.
Edwards and Alsobrooks are seen as the top two candidates in the June 26 primary. If one of them wins in the heavily Democratic, majority-Black territory, they more than likely would succeed in the November general election and become the first woman elected county executive in Maryland’s second-largest jurisdiction.
Barbara Williams of Temple Hills, who attended Saturday’s forum, remains unsure who to choose but said she was most impressed by Alsobrooks and Monteiro.
“Alsobrooks shows a lot of caring and concern,” Williams said. “Monteiro admits to if he doesn’t know something, he will ask someone in the community who may know more. Whoever gets elected, we need to do put something for the brain on Allentown Road like a library, or cultural arts center. If there’s another gas station there, I’m going to scream.”