Two Democrats are responding to a Goucher Poll that shows a wide-open race with roughly nine months until the gubernatorial primary election.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and Jim Shea, the former chair of Venable LLP and Democratic party activist and donor, find themselves in different starting positions, according to a poll released Tuesday morning by the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College.
Baker, who is prevented from running for a third term as county executive, finds himself atop the list of declared candidates, albeit grouped with three others all within the margin of error. Shea, who retired from the law firm earlier this year, finds himself in a group of candidates who lack statewide name recognition.
Both, in separate statements, reaffirmed their commitment to their respective campaigns.
“Polls can be helpful, but my focus remains on earning the support of Maryland voters by sharing my story and vision for the state,” Baker said in his statement.
Baker tops the list of Democrats at 13 percent. Former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler falls 2 points behind with Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Maya Rockeymoore Cummings polling at 8 percent — within the 5.4 percent margin of error.
The field of primary contenders currently includes Baker; Kamenetz; Shea; Montgomery County state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr.; former NAACP President Ben Jealous; technology policy expert and senior fellow at Johns Hopkins University and former Hillary Clinton aide Alec Ross; former Michelle Obama aide Krishanti Vignarajah; and activist and educator Ralph Jaffe.
Gansler has said he is not a candidate. Rockeymoore Cummings, the head of a Washington public policy firm and wife of Rep. Elijah Cummings, has expressed an interest in running but has not yet filed nor established a fundraising account.
Mileah Kromer, director of the Goucher Poll, said numbers released Tuesday show a wide open race. And while a majority of Democratic voters surveyed expressed heightened interest in the 2018 election, 44 percent of them said they remained undecided on which of more than a half-dozen candidates is best suited to challenge first-term Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
The poll gives Maryland voters a baseline look at how the campaign is shaping up, Kromer said.
“During my travels around the state I’ve felt the anxiety hidden behind the smiles. Hard-working people feel forgotten, overlooked, ignored,” Baker said, going on to reference the Civil War. “The tensions between those that feel we should move forward and those that want to go backwards have not been this high in over 156 years. The gap between those with wealth and the promise that being honest and working and studying hard could secure your future grows dimmer every day.”
Shea, the former Venable LLP chairman, polled at 2 percent, according to the Goucher survey.
Craig Varoga, Shea’s chief strategist, issued a statement in which he expressed enthusiasm for the coming campaign.
“Jim Shea is tailor-made for a wide-open race like this, having guided the University System of Maryland to excellence and held down tuition as chair of the Board of Regents, while successfully building the state’s largest law firm that employs thousands of people,” Varoga said. “Bring it on.”