Eight of the 10 Prince George’s County executive hopefuls presented their platforms Tuesday during a candidates’ forum in Largo, and while it was a largely civil affair, the discourse became a bit testy at times.
The packed room inside the Prince George’s Community College’s Largo Student Center heard about ideas on education, economic development, nonprofits and criminal justice reform.
But tensions ratcheted when Jerry Mathis, the only Republican candidate, spoke about economic development as he recalled a threat to sue the county to ensure minority companies participated in the National Harbor project.
“We’re in a sharecropper system, folks,” he said. “When are you going to escape the plantation? Wealth and politics is a combination that if you don’t understand it, it’s going to cripple you.”
State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks took offense to Mathis calling Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. “an overseer of the plantation” of state politics in Annapolis.
“There is no overseer and I’m not living on no plantation,” she said. “We spend our time at these tables tearing each other down while other people are getting rich because we have not learned how to work together.”
Alsobrooks also criticized former Rep. Donna Edwards for challenging fellow candidates who accept money from developers and high-ranking special interest groups.
According to an April 12 campaign finance report, Edwards received at least $410,000 from a super PAC (Political Action Committee) from a group called “We Are Prince George’s.” About $400,000 came from two unions — D.C.-based Unite Here Local 25 and LiUNA! (Laborers’ International Union of North America) of Reston, Virginia. Patricia Bauman, a philanthropist from the District, contributed $10,000 and has supported Edwards in previous elections.
Edwards, who also announced Tuesday an endorsement from Prince George’s teachers’ union, said her donor base reflects the county’s working class.
“What I find is they are your local grocer and commercial workers, people who work at Giant and Safeway,” she said. “They are laborers who work on your roads and fix your buildings. They are workers in our community. They are not developers who have given me a half-million dollars.”
Attendees at the more than two-hour event, co-hosted by the county’s NAACP branch and the Municipal Association, also heard from state Sen. C. Anthony Muse, former Obama administration official Paul Monteiro, Air Force veteran Billy Bridges and Tommie Thompson, president of Bazilio Cobb Associates with offices in Lanham and northwest D.C.
Two other candidates, former Lt. Gov. Samuel Bogley II and Michael E. Kennedy, didn’t attend.
A few humorous moments came from candidate Lewis B. Johnson, who said “the devil” cut off his microphone when he tried to speak.
Johnson, a retiree from the U.S. Government Printing Office on Capitol Hill, supports an increase to teacher salaries because educators “don’t need a whole lot of weight coming down on you because of these hard-headed kids who are raised by single moms.”
Prince George’s NAACP President Bob Ross said the organization cannot endorse any candidates, but encouraged everyone to vote.
“I am so proud of what we pulled together in this community,” he said. “If you want any of these candidates to win, [then] you have to get out and vote.”