The two front-runners in the Democratic race for governor are trading barbs over money in politics as the race heats up and enters its final two weeks.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and former NACCP President Ben Jealous engaged in a Twitter spat starting Monday night when Baker taunted Jealous about the plans of outside groups to spend nearly $1 million to support his candidacy in the June 26 primary for the nomination to oppose Gov. Larry Hogan.
Jealous quickly shot back, with a reference to a controversy about whether graduation rates in Prince George’s County were inflated by awarding degrees to students who did not meet standards.
He followed up by boasting about his success in raising money from individuals rather than corporations.
Jealous’ estimates of how much money Baker has raised from corporations and individuals are roughly accurate. But Jealous himself has raised the bulk of his money from out-of-state donors, obtaining more money from Californians than from Maryland residents.
The heated exchange in the once-polite campaign comes as early voting is set to begin Thursday. Recent polls have shown that Baker and Jealous have pulled away from the rest of the nine-candidate field. A Baltimore Sun poll released last week show each of the front-runners with 16 percent of the vote, with 44 percent undecided.
Jealous reported May 22 that he had $660,000 in cash on hand, second among the Democratic contenders after lawyer Jim Shea. Baker, despite having the endorsement of many of the state’s leading Democrats, trailed him with $577,000.
Two groups announced plans Monday to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars independently of the Jealous campaign to support his candidacy. Maryland Together We Rise said it had spent nearly $400,000 on television ads that will run through Election Day. Meanwhile a coalition of labor unions and progressive groups said it would spend $500,000 in an effort to get out the vote for Jealous.
By law, such spending cannot be coordinated with the candidate’s campaign.