Two-term Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III Wednesday announced he will seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018.
Baker’s announcement in an email and nearly four-minute YouTube video ended months of speculation and confirmed what many political observers expected.
“Marylanders work hard for their money and deserve a governor who’ll make it easier for them to afford health care, provide for their families, plan for the future, and have great public schools,” Baker said in a statement released overnight. “They deserve a governor that supports paid sick leave, makes Maryland a leader in innovation and economic growth and stands up for the rights of all of us.”
Baker, 58, joins perennial candidate Ralph Jaffe; Benjamin Jealous, the former head of the NAACP; and Montgomery County state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Sr. as the only Democrats to announce their candidacy for governor. Only Jaffe has formally filed with the Maryland State Board of Elections.
Others thought to be considering entering the Democratic fray include Rep. John Delaney; former Maryland Attorney General and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler; Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz; and Jim Shea, a Baltimore attorney and former chair of Venable LLP.
Baker’s political future has been the subject of speculation for more than a year. He’s prevented from seeking a third term as county executive and has for the last year appeared to be setting up for a run for governor.
But at the same time, Baker has lagged behind in fundraising, reporting only about $250,000 in cash on hand in the most recent report filed in January. That same report showed that he spent almost as much as he raised in 2016.
By comparison, Kamenetz, the Baltimore County Executive, reported raising $460,000 in 2016 and had about $1.6 million in cash on hand. Republican first-term Gov. Larry Hogan reported $5 million in his war chest for the same period.
Baker, the seventh executive to lead the county of more than 900,000, served more than eight years in the House of Delegates. He left the legislature to run for county executive, losing both in 2002 and 2006.
Political observers also speculated about Baker’s ability to enter the race as he continues to care for his wife, Beverly, who has battled Alzheimer’s for the last seven years, which is prominently highlighted in his campaign video and in a recent appearance on a Washington morning television show.
“She has been my partner for everything,” Baker says in his campaign video.
Baker won in 2010, succeeding Jack B. Johnson, who was term-limited. Soon after the election, Johnson and his wife were indicted on federal corruption charges.
Baker, as a result, instituted ethics reform measures.
“When I became county executive, we had huge challenges — a corruption investigation, thousands of foreclosures, 13 murders in the first 13 days,” Baker said in his video. “So we rolled up our sleeves and we cleaned house.”
Despite those changes, the county has been rocked by additional corruption scandals. Earlier this year, two state delegates from Prince George’s County, one of whom was previously a county councilman, were indicted on corruption charges for allegedly taking bribes for changes to the county’s liquor laws.
Baker, in his video, highlights his record on economic development and making his county business friendly, increased graduation rates, and lower crime.
“Everything that is supposed to be up is up, and everything that is supposed to be down is down,” Baker said in the video.
Baker also touched on themes of improved education, wages and health care.
The video and the statement do not mention President Donald Trump or Hogan, though Baker does criticize the governor indirectly for a lack of leadership.
“Our next governor shouldn’t shy away from issues that have direct impacts on children, seniors, families and entire communities,” Baker said in his statement. “As Prince George’s County Executive, my first and only consideration has been improving the quality of life for our residents, not politics or popularity. People deserve a Governor who has the courage to make tough calls; who knows how to bring people together to do the right thing and knows how to move us from conflicts to outcomes. I look forward to earning the support of everyone in Maryland that believes Maryland should lead and that our elected leaders should represent all of us.”