Former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III says he’s going to make a run again for governor of Maryland in 2022.
The Democrat finished second in a crowded 2018 primary behind nominee Ben Jealous, who ultimately was defeated soundly as Republican Gov. Larry Hogan won reelection.
At the time of his primary loss, Baker sounded as if he was ready to retire from politics.
“I have nothing to be sad about. It is not a sad night for me,” Baker told his supporters at his primary night party in College Park. “I’m going to walk out of here very pleased with the career I have had.”
But over the last several weeks, Baker said he’s reflected on issues of health, education and the economy raised during the pandemic and realized he still could make a difference for Marylanders.
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed disparities in those areas that require more government intervention and investment, Baker said. Improving access to quality health care is especially important, Baker said, because many problems, including crime, can often be traced back to health issues, such as substance use or untreated mental health issues.
“It’s all of those things coming together and thinking about how we, as a state, should be approaching the issues that we’re facing and how we need to change course,” Baker said in an interview Friday.
Baker started putting out feelers about restarting his political career, making fundraising calls and talking with polling consultants. He had a meeting with his family, who gave him its blessing to run.
Baker, 62, served two terms as county executive in Prince George’s County, the state’s second-largest county, from 2010 until 2018. Baker won the seat on his third try, after the prior officeholder, Jack Johnson, was charged in a corruption scandal that eventually landed him in federal prison.
Baker also served nearly 10 years in the Maryland House of Delegates, from 1994 to 2003.
In his 2018 gubernatorial campaign, Baker touted a “turnaround” that he achieved in Prince George’s, reducing crime, boosting spending on public schools, and landing economic development projects, including the MGM casino at National Harbor.
Baker noted that when he was county executive, he had a supportive governor, Democrat Martin O’Malley, who lent staff and expertise to Prince George’s County. He envisions himself as a governor who would partner similarly with local leaders to address issues across the state.
“You need a collaboration and a real partnership — not just dollars — but womanpower, manpower,” Baker said.
Born in Valdosta, Georgia, Baker earned a bachelor’s degree and a law degree at Howard University in Washington. He has practiced law and reached the rank of captain in the U.S. Army Reserves Judge Advocate General Corps.
Since his 2018 loss, Baker has run a consulting outfit called the Baker Strategy Group and joined a partnership with the University of Maryland School of Public Policy to train government leaders.
He also leads the Christa L. Beverly Foundation, named for his wife, who has early onset Alzheimer’s disease. In a recent blog post for the Alzheimer’s Association, Baker praised her as “still strong, and so loving. She is the bravest person I have ever met.”
Baker said he’s fortunate to have more flexibility to run his campaign than he did in 2018, when he was still running a large county as his day job.
Maryland Policy & Politics
He began 2021 with just $8,700 in his campaign finance account.
Hogan is limited by state law to two four-year terms, leaving a wide-open race to replace him.
Baker is the second high-profile Democrat to announce plans to run for governor in 2022. Comptroller Peter Franchot, who long ago signaled his intent to run and unveiled a 14-point platform this week.
Another announced Democratic candidate is Jon Baron of Montgomery County, an executive with the Arnold Foundation, a Texas-based philanthropy.
Several other Democrats are considering a run or being encouraged to get into the race, including: Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr.; former federal labor secretary and former Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez; former federal education secretary John B. King, who recently formed a nonprofit advocacy group in Maryland; Doug Gansler, former Montgomery County prosecutor and state attorney general; author and activist Wes Moore; U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown, a former lieutenant governor who was the party’s nominee in 2014; and U.S. Rep. David Trone.
On the Republican side, potential candidates include: current Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, former lieutenant governor and current TV commentator Michael Steele, Harford County Executive Barry Glassman and state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz.
Baker announced his plans to run in an interview with the website Maryland Matters that was published Thursday night.