Four of the five candidates running for Prince George’s County executive summarized their platforms on education, public safety and other topics at a forum Tuesday at Prince George’s Community College in Largo.
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, Tonya Sweat, Sherman Hardy, Leigh Bodden and Billy Bridges are all registered Democrats. The county has the highest percentage of registered Democrats in the state of Maryland, so whoever receives the nomination in the July 19 primary election could eventually win in the November general election.
Because of a family matter out of state, Bridges didn’t participate in the forum hosted by various county organizations that included the League of Women Voters, NAACP branch, National Pan-Hellenic Council and alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. social action committee. Those who couldn’t attend in person could also view the discussion online.
Alsobrooks, Sweat and Hardy began the nearly two-hour forum by answering two questions in three parts.
One question focused on what their top priorities in the first 120 days in office would be, working relationship with the County Council and tackling racial injustice.
Hardy, a real estate agent of Clinton, said one of his priorities would be to ensure the county’s Police Accountability Board can audit body camera footage.
Alsobrooks, who’s seeking a second four-year term, said her administration would “get a handle on what we see in rising crime” as one of her first priorities.
Sweat, an attorney who resides in Accokeek, said she would start a search for a CEO to oversee the public school system and then examine the county’s finances to assess how it’s being spent.
Bodden, a county native who resides in Bowie, walked on the stage almost 40 minutes into the forum because he had to await the results of a COVID-19 test. Attendees needed to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination before entering the room.
Bodden joined the discussion as his opponents summarized on ways to increase development by bringing in more businesses to increase the commercial tax base.
“We need to develop our children. We need more programs, more centers for our children,” said Bodden, who played nine seasons in the NFL and now runs a foundation. “We’re second to last in the maintenance of our schools in the state. We need to develop our children to go out into the workforce and be prepared to counter all these other counties who are developing faster than us. If we don’t do that, we are going to be behind in our future.”
At times, the forum became a bit feisty.
Alsobrooks said she’s the only candidate with executive experience.
“Contrary to what you’ve heard, I spent my entire career in the executive branch of the United States branch of government,” said Sweat, an Air Force veteran who runs her own consulting firm. “I may not have been your county executive. This might be my first time running for office, but I assure you, I know what politics all are about.”
Sweat, Bodden and Hardy said voters should choose new leadership with property owners paying the majority of the tax base, limited food options and paying millions of dollars in lawsuits over police brutality.
“We have not had accountability in this county. Will you do what is necessary to stand up to Goliath?” said Hardy, who’s also an Air Force veteran. “We talk about moving forward, but what are we moving forward to and in what direction? I urge you to do something different. I know many of you have come with your minds made up, but I ask you to use your heart.”
Alsobrooks laid out the work her administration continues to do such as transit-oriented development around the county’s Metro stations, groundbreaking on nine new schools and recommending the County Council shift $20 million from police department budget toward building behavioral center at Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center in Lanham scheduled to open next month.
“This is work we will do together,” she said. “I love this county. In spite of all of our challenges, this is a tremendous county.”