James Butler of Upper Marlboro said the Regional Medical Center project in Largo is just one example why Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III deserves to be elected as governor of Maryland.
Although Rhonda Billingslea of Bowie praised Baker’s work since his early days as a state legislator in Annapolis, she echoed the sentiment of several others that new blood is needed to lead the state.
“Rushern Baker is not my first choice,” said Billingslea, whose two top choices are former NAACP President Ben Jealous and tech entrepreneur Alec Ross. “We need some fresh faces to move our state.”
Before Baker spoke at a forum Saturday, June 24 in Bowie about how the Affordable Care Act helped the county get approval to work on construction of the medical center, he announced three days earlier through a video message he will run for Maryland governor.
The 58-year-old executive, whose term expires next year, joins an already crowded field of Democrats, including Jealous, Ross, state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. and Baltimore attorney James L. Shea.
Voters could have even more choices in the June 2018 primary contest if Rep. John Delaney (D-Maryland), former Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamanetz decide to run against Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who has Prince George’s ties.
As for Baker, he made his case to members of the Black Press last week at the annual National Newspaper Publishers Association convention at the National Harbor in Oxon Hill.
“I believe the sum of my life’s experiences put me in a very good position to lead the state of Maryland forward,” he said. “Hogan is quite popular among Maryland citizens, but the similarities between him and the other candidates are fairly obvious. With me in the race, you certainly would not have a generic matchup.”
His foray into politics began in 1994 when he served in the Maryland General Assembly. After two unsuccessful campaigns in the county executive race, he won in 2010 and began to push for change when the FBI launched a corruption case against former Executive Jack Johnson.
One of Baker’s first moves was to institute ethics reform and eradicate all illegal behavior throughout county government.
In 2012, he successfully pushed through state legislation to restructure the county school system, allowing for the county executive to appoint several members of the school board, including the chair and vice chair.
However, the school system has been embroiled in controversy, as the four youngest board members want the state to investigate whether graduation rates have been artificially inflated. Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell denied those accusations during a school board meeting last week.
In the meantime, Baker presented a $3.8 billion budget to the county council that largely mirrored the previous year’s and has no tax increase.
His most noteworthy accomplishments include educational programs, public safety and the first full-year of revenues from the MGM casino resort at National Harbor.
If Baker or Jealous are nominated and defeat Hogan, it would be the first time Maryland voters elected a black governor.
Some Prince George’s voters acknowledge that a black person leading the state would be historical, but that shouldn’t be the deciding factor at the ballot box.
The Rev. Jonathan Weaver, pastor of Greater Mt. Nebo AME Church, said he will consult with religious and community leaders to organize candidate forums after Labor Day.
“We want to bring candidates from the Republican side as well as the Democratic side so that we can hear exactly from them,” he said. “But we’ll also want them to hear our agenda so that those issues that are of concerned to us can be addressed.”