Ben Jealous
Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous speaks with supporters during a May 18 rally at Sylvan Vista Baptist Church in Fairmount Heights. (Brigette White/The Washington Informer)

With exactly three weeks until early voting begins June 14 in Maryland’s Democratic primary, gubernatorial candidates are aggressively pushing their messages of leadership, experience and hope.

Because Prince George’s County stands as one of the top four locales to win, one candidate has resonated with the majority-Black jurisdiction with at least 500,000 registered voters: former NAACP President Ben Jealous.

One of Jealous’ opponents, County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, has led in various polls. But some county residents who support Jealous have expressed displeasure with Baker’s leadership, namely his defense of outgoing schools system CEO Kevin Maxwell.

Over the past two years, the schools system has endured allegations of child abuse, a grade-changing scandal and unauthorized pay raises.

Some unions aren’t pleased with Baker’s support of major companies such as Whole Foods, which moved to Riverdale.

Three United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) unions in Prince George’s, Montgomery and Baltimore counties — representing 35,000 workers — all endorsed Jealous on Monday, May 21.

Three days prior, community and religious leaders and candidates seeking county and state offices rallied for Jealous on Friday, May 18 at the Sylvan Vista Baptist Church in Fairmount Heights.

“We need to rally our focus with hope,” said Fairmount Heights Mayor Lillie Thompson-Martin. “We need to have candidates who fight for our benefit. We need to support Ben Jealous.”

Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous (right) talks about his campaign before a May 18 rally at Sylvan Vista Baptist Church in Fairmount Heights as actor and activist Harry Lennix listens. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Even actor and activist Harry Lennix, who meet Jealous in 2007 at a conference, gave rousing remarks for Jealous. Lennix also narrated portions of a televised 60-second commercial in the Baltimore market

“When you think about things like faith, hope and love, of those three things is political and that’s hope,” Lennix said an interview before they spoke to the audience. “Ben is a perfect crystallization of these things. When I listen to him, I hear a person who is not just extraordinarily progressive and civilized and humane, I also see a fighter.”

Baker plans to fight, too. He has support from federal, state and county officials such as Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), Metro board member Malcolm Augustine, who’s running for state delegate in District 47A, and Hyattsville Mayor Candace Hollingsworth, who will challenge County Councilwoman Deni Taveras (D-District 2) in this year’s primary.

County Councilwoman Karen Toles (D-District 7) of Suitland said policies and procedures implemented by the council and Baker allowed residential and commercial projects such as Woodmore Towne Center in Glenarden and the Suitland The Towne Square at Suitland Federal Center to become a reality.

“Because of the work that council and the county executive [have] done … is what’s going to allow us to move forward,” she said during a May 19 candidates’ forum.

The gubernatorial candidates also participated in a televised debate Monday in Baltimore.

The race could slightly change because of the recent death of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, whose campaign had raised the most money with more than $2 million.

His running mate, Valerie Ervin, filed to take his place and have Marisol Johnson as the lieutenant governor candidate.

Megaphone Strategies, a public relations firm co-founded by CNN pundit Van Jones, will manage Ervin’s campaign. The firm also helps oversee the county executive campaign of Ervin’s longtime friend, former Rep. Donna Edwards.

The other gubernatorial candidates are state Sen. Richard Madaleno Jr. of Montgomery County; Krish Vignarajah, onetime policy director for former first lady Michelle Obama; Baltimore attorney Jim Shea; tech entrepreneur Alec Ross; James Hugh Jones II of Baltimore City; and Ralph Jaffe of Baltimore County.

The winner will face Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in the Nov. 6 general election.

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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