COLLEGE PARK – Current Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III lost his bid to become the Democratic nominee for Governor for the state of Maryland to the former president and CEO of the NAACP Ben Jealous in Maryland Democratic primary on June 26.
In a six-candidate race, Jealous earned 39.8 percent of the vote while Baker fell to second place, accumulating 29.3 percent. Running on a platform based on his history as county executive, Baker campaigned on improving the minimum wage statewide, increasing jobs and lowering the crime rate.
Once the election was out of reach, Baker conceded defeat in front of his supporters in the Chesapeake Ballroom of the College Park Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. During his concession speech, Baker told his voters to “vote democrat” and announced his decision to support Jealous, who will look to become the first African-American elected as governor.
“Before coming over here, I talked to Mr. Jealous, and I congratulated him for a hard-fought campaign,” Baker said during his concession speech. “I told him that we are going to do everything we can to make sure that he is victorious in November.”
Baker’s campaign experienced a lot of momentum in the final weeks before the primary. Seen as an established candidate, Baker received endorsements of the majority of the state’s Democratic elected officials. On June 13, fellow candidate Valerie Ervin dropped out of the race and lent her support to Baker’s campaign.
Prince George’s came out in full force for Baker as he won 49.9 of the county vote. Montgomery County proved to be a tighter race for both candidates, with Jealous edging out Baker with over 4,000 votes. Outside the two urban counties, Baker was unable to compete with Jealous, who will take on Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in the general election in November.
“The main thing is we need to get a Democratic back into Annapolis and actually have healthcare for everybody, and so we can actually raise the minimum wage,” Baker said. “…So our work is not done. This is a bittersweet night for me, but it is about the work we have to do tomorrow.”
Following his concession speech, Baker went to the offensive, saying that current governor Larry Hogan should be to blame for the voting issues that plagued the state on primary day. As many as 80,000 voters cast provisional ballots during the primary because of a computer glitch with the Motor Vehicle Administration not updating voters’ registration address or party affiliation.
“Two days before the election, you cannot even run the MVA right to make sure this does not happen,” Baker said. “I think we are going to look at the governor’s management style and I think he has to be held accountable. He can call the Superintendent of Prince George’s County (Public Schools) to go for people under him doing something wrong, then (Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn) should go and that is something that is going to be a part of it.”
As more than 50 percent of the precincts tallied up votes and Baker was still in second place, a projector showing updated results was turned off for the rest of the event. Moments before Baker made his appearance, guests were given yellow signs, stating “Vote for The Democrats.” Supporters were distraught but cheered support at Baker throughout his speech.
“We are so grateful you are all here and for all the hard work that everyone put in,” Baker’s running mate Elizabeth Embry said to their supporters. “We know the polls you covered and the people you called; everything you did means a lot to us.”
Julia Hurwit, 21, worked on Baker’s campaign as a volunteer, stood silently during his concession speech. While upset by the results, the Boston, Mass. native said that she will encourage friends who attend the University of Maryland, College Park to support the Democratic nominee.
“He really did a good job with Prince George’s County, and I thought it was important for someone to be governor, they had to have good experience and being the leader of one of the bigger counties was very good,” Hurwit said. “…But I totally agree (with Baker), any Democratic for me is the right candidate.”
Despite the loss, Baker said that he would focus the next five months as county executive “pushing through” more legislation that were the pillars of his campaign.
Because of his own political aspirations, Baker said he has not talked to any of the candidates who ran become his successor, including the winner of the Democratic nomination and current County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks.
“We are ready to work with her in the transition and make sure that we close out strong once we give it to her,” Baker said.