Rushern L. Baker III dropped out Friday from the race for the Democratic nomination to run for governor.
The former Prince George’s County executive, who also sought the party’s gubernatorial nomination in 2018, announced his decision on Twitter.
“Having considered the financial challenges facing our campaign in the coming weeks, my running mate Nancy Navarro and I have made the difficult, yet necessary, decision to suspend our campaign activities, effective immediately,” Baker tweeted.
In the only independent poll of the primary, published Sunday by The Baltimore Sun, Baker was the choice of just 7% of likely Democratic voters statewide. That put him behind State Comptroller Peter Franchot (20%), author and former nonprofit leader Wes Moore (15%) and former U.S. and state Labor Secretary Tom Perez (12%) in a poll with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points. About a third of voters were undecided, however.
Baker’s departure leaves a still-crowded field of nine candidates.
“Despite being dramatically outspent by our competitors, we have consistently polled near the top of the Democratic primary field,” Baker said in a series of tweets, “a reflection of the efficient way we have managed our campaign, and a validation of the ideas we have presented to the people of our state.”
Candidates must file campaign finance reports Tuesday, showing what they have raised and spent between Jan. 13 and June 7, a significant indicator of their strength and potential for endurance through the July 19 primary.
Baker and academic Jerome Segal are the only candidates in the Democratic gubernatorial field to participate in public campaign financing. That’s a system under which candidates forgo the biggest donations in exchange for public money, and greater public funds are matched for each smaller, individual donation from a supporter than for a larger contribution.
Roger Hartley, dean of University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs, said that Baker’s decision to suspend his campaign is “really significant.”
He said Prince George’s, which has high concentrations of well-educated, Black Democratic voters, could now likely lean toward the top three candidates in the poll: Moore, who is seeking to win over Black voters beyond those in Baltimore; Perez, who is well-known in the Washington suburbs, and Franchot, who has statewide name recognition.
“There is going to be a rush of people to his office and a rush of people to Prince George’s County,” seeking the support of Baker and those who preferred him for governor, Hartley said. He said any endorsement by Baker would be “powerful.”
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But Hartley was cautious in his predictions of who would reap the most benefit, noting Baker’s deep base in Prince George’s and the fact that his name still will appear on the ballot. The deadline to officially withdraw was April 18.
Before Baker ran for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2018, he served two terms as county executive and two terms in the Maryland House of Delegates.
“We can’t assume that all 7% ... are going to necessarily all switch from Rushern Baker to someone else,” Hartley said.
According to the Sun/UB poll, 31% of likely Democratic primary voters who had Baker as their first choice said Franchot was their second choice _ the most for any other candidate among Baker supporters.
Baker “is someone my family and I have looked up to for years (we even voted for him in 2018),” fellow candidate Andrew Jain tweeted in response to Baker’s announcement. “It was an honor to share debate stages with him & I look forward to his continued leadership in other capacities.”
Former U.S. Department of Education Secretary John King said in a statement that he enjoyed his growing friendship with Baker on the campaign trail, and he cherished a bond they shared over losing a loved one to Alzheimer’s disease. King’s father died of Alzheimer’s when he was a child. Baker’s wife, Christa Beverly Baker, died in November after a long battle with the disease. Baker spoke affectionately of his wife at several candidate forums and talked about her impact on his policy decisions.
Voting is underway, with Marylanders who requested online links to receive a ballot getting those starting this week. Also, ballots will be sent by mail to voters who requested delivery that way. Early voting will be July 7-14.
This article has been corrected to show that the Democratic candidate picked by largest amount of Rushern L. Baker III supporters as their second choice in the gubernatorial race was Peter Franchot, who was selected by 31% of those likely voters. The Sun regrets the error.