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Four years ago, then-Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) struggled to rally county leaders behind his first run for governor.
Only one member of the County Council, Derrick Leon Davis (D), stood with him in 2018. The failure to draw a bigger crowd undercut Baker’s primary campaign, which he lost to Ben Jealous by ten points.
On Tuesday — to show that he has strong rapport with the local elected leaders who know him best — the former two-term executive basked in endorsements from nine members of the 11-member panel.
Standing within view of the just-opened Capital Regional Medical Center in Landover, Baker called it “a special moment” to win the backing of people “who know you, when the cameras aren’t on, when you’re back in the office, [where the language can be] a little salty, who … may disagree.”
Baker said that if county leaders were able to convince state leaders and the University of Maryland Health System to build a new hospital in historically under-served Prince George’s, then tackling health disparities on a larger scale is also doable.
“If we can do that as a county, then why can’t we as a state provide Medicare for all?” he asked, to applause. “Why can’t we make sure everybody has health care?”
The nine council Democrats who endorsed Baker praised him for championing “living-wage legislation,” luring new businesses, reducing crime and cleaning up forlorn neighborhoods.
“Every part of Prince George’s County — north to central to south — has been touched by the progress of the Baker era,” said Councilmember Mel Franklin (D).
Baker is running in a crowded field of Democratic candidates that includes nonprofit executive Jon Baron, Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot, former state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, former Obama Administration official Ashwani K. Jain, former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., author and former anti-poverty CEO Wes Moore, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and Baltimore tech entrepreneur Michael Rosenbaum.
County Councilmember Jolene Ivey (D), a longtime friend, said Baker’s experience running the state’s second largest local government is a significant advantage.
“He’s actually run a government. Not an agency. Not a non-profit. Not a business,” Ivey said. “To be able to orchestrate an entire government, now that’s hard.”
Political candidates who are aligned frequently mail out campaign literature together in Prince George’s, giving Baker a potential edge in the 2022 primary.
The officials to endorse him on Tuesday were: Council Chair Calvin S. Hawkins II, Vice Chair Deni Taveras and Councilmembers Franklin (At-Large), Dannielle M. Glaros (District 3), Todd M. Turner (District 4), Ivey (District 5), Davis (District 6), Rodney C. Streeter (District 7), and Sydney J. Harrison (District 9), all Democrats.
Two members of the council — Thomas E. Dernoga (District 1) and Monique Anderson-Walker (District 8) — did not.
Baker said he is in conversations with his successor, County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D), and hopes to win her endorsement as well.
Tuesday’s rally took on the feel of a family reunion, because the Prince George’s Council — like most legislative bodies — has been holding its meetings online.
“This is the first [time] in probably 18 month that I have stood with my colleagues,” said Glaros (D). “It is awesome to be out here.”
Baker is expected to formally launch his campaign for governor on Sept. 7.