COLMAR MANOR – County Executive Rushern Baker III and the County Council may find themselves at odds once again.
Baker announced last Wednesday he has endorsed Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-8) for the U.S. Senate in the upcoming 2016 election, but some members of the County Council have chosen to go a different route and elected to endorse Donna Edwards (D-4).
Baker said he chose to endorse Van Hollen rather than Edwards, a Prince George’s County representative and native, because of their experience working together in the state legislature. The two have a history of working together, he said, and “rolling up [their] sleeves” on difficult issues.
“That’s the type of relationship I’ve had with Senator (Barbara) Mikulski. I know that Chris, going over to the Senate, will do that,” Baker said. “It was an easy decision in this respect. I don’t just know him as a name or as a congressman—I know him personally and I know the working relationship.”
However, all members of the Prince George’s County Council except for Councilman Todd Turner and Councilwoman Deni Taveras announced their support for Edwards at Prince George’s County Community College Wednesday.
Edwards thanked the councilmembers for their support and said she looks forward to working with them at the Senate level.
“I am thrilled to stand with my partners on the Prince George’s County Council,” Edwards said. “Together, we have worked tirelessly to improve education, expand economic development, and stand up for our seniors. I thank them for their support, and look forward to continue working with them in the United States Senate.”
Mel Franklin, Chairman of the Prince George’s County Council, said he will stand with Edwards as works to stand in Senator Mikulski’s “trailblazing” shoes in her senate seat.
“Donna's experiences and values have made her who she is today, a principled, progressive fighter with a unique, proven record of improving the lives of working families,” Franklin said. “That is what she has done in Prince George’s County, and that is what she will do for all Marylanders."
Van Hollen said he is happy to have the support of Baker, as well as Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett who also attended the press conference where Baker made his announcement.
Van Hollen represents Congressional District 8, which used to include part of Prince George’s County as recently as 2013. In Congress, Van Hollen said he has done his best to give citizens the best opportunities to “live the American dream.”
Elected officials in Prince George’s County work hard, Van Hollen said, and Baker has a history of being a hard worker. If elected to the Senate, he said he looks forward to continuing to work with Baker to help Prince George’s County residents.
“When it comes to working hard to get things done for the community, the person I think of from my days in the General Assembly is Rushern Baker,” Van Hollen said. “As the county executive said, when we were in the General Assembly together we saw eye to eye and our hearts were in the same place.”
While serving in the Maryland House of Delegates, Van Hollen said the two partnered on initiatives such as the Bridge to Excellence Act which requires school systems to develop master plans and tobacco regulation legislation.
If elected to Mikulski’s seat, Donna Edwards would become the first African American woman to represent Maryland in the Senate. But as county executive, Baker said, he has to make decisions regardless of their historical context and race and gender do not matter when deciding who to endorse.
“My job as county executive is to figure out what is in the best interest of Prince George’s County,” Baker said. “The second thing, as a resident in the state of Maryland, I have to figure out what is in the best interest of the state of Maryland…That’s why I’m comfortable endorsing (Van Hollen); because I know with this person if I’m not on Capitol Hill watching him, I know that he has the best interest of this county and state.”
Leggett said discussions about race when making endorsements are “inappropriate.” The citizens have to make a choice about who they want elected, Leggett said, and the choice is difficult but they must make the right choice.
“It is (something) that we should look at, but we have come a very long way,” Leggett said. “We are not quite there yet but we have come a very long way. And that long way says to us that we have the opportunity to elect the best person for the job, someone that has demonstrated leadership on local and state levels. I think that person is Mr. Van Hollen.”
Society is not “post-racial”, Leggett said, but Van Hollen will fight to ensure society does reach that point.
Colmar Manor Mayor Sadara Barrow, who also attended the conference, said she does not feel any pressure to vote one way or another between Edwards and Van Hollen. Both make good candidates, Barrow said, but she has more experience working with Van Hollen, who helped provide financial aid to the Colmar Manor Community Center.
“When I talked to Congressman Van Hollen, I told him that he will make a fabulous senator, and I think Congresswoman Edwards would also make a fabulous senator. I really do believe in both of them,” Barrow said.
Ben Gerdes, campaign spokesman for Edwards, said even with Bakers’ endorsement of Van Hollen, Edwards is confident she will still be able to win over Prince George’s County and get the votes needed to win because of her experience fighting for the constituents in Congress.
“She fought for historic investments in historically black colleges, led the fight against balancing the budget on the backs of federal workers, and ensured women and minorities have access to science learning,” Gerdes said. “She’s had their backs time and time again and that’s why Prince George’s County will vote for her again in this election.”