Baker Plans New Run for Executive

Former state delegate Rushern L. Baker III, center, announces that he is exploring another run for county executive.
Former state delegate Rushern L. Baker III, center, announces that he is exploring another run for county executive. (By Andrea Bruce Woodall -- The Washington Post)

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By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 9, 2005

Standing outside the two-story brick house in Cheverly that he refinanced to help pay for his previous campaign for county executive, Rushern L. Baker III said this week that he wants to make another run for the county's top job.

Baker, a former House delegate who ran unsuccessfully in 2002, announced that he has formed a committee to explore a 2006 bid for county executive.

Baker cast himself as a concerned and frustrated county resident in search of new leadership to address the challenges facing Prince George's and to "take it to the next level."

Baker, who finished fourth in a five-candidate primary race three years ago, said his decision to consider another run is largely based on County Executive Jack B. Johnson's response to the county's escalating crime rate.

"Under our current leadership, our county now leads the state in rape, robbery, arson, larceny, carjacking and car theft," said Baker, who works for a nonprofit education organization in the District. "This is intolerable for Prince George's County."

Baker said that he and his family, like many others in the county, have become victims.

His son Rushern, then 16, was robbed at gunpoint last year outside a Metro station near their home. The previous year, the family's Chevy SUV was stolen from its driveway.

While Baker tests the waters, Johnson (D) has had no trouble raising money.

Johnson has $667,000 in his two campaign accounts, according to reports filed with the state. Meanwhile Baker's reports show his campaign is $103,000 in the red.

Baker said this week that the debt has been wiped out and that Friends of Rushern Baker, the new campaign, will be essentially "starting from scratch."

With a son entering college in the fall, Baker said he has made it clear to supporters that he can't mortgage his house this time around.

If Baker formally enters the race, early signs show that his campaign will not be as genial as it was in 2002.

Nearly every week Baker blasts community leaders and media outlets with e-mails attacking Johnson for comments he has made or policies he has initiated.

Johnson said through a spokesman that he is focused on governing the county, not campaigning.

"Mr. Baker has the right to bring his views before the people of Prince George's County," Johnson said in a statement. "And I welcome the debate on our record. . . . I intend to focus all of my energy on the importance of matters of governance until I decide whether or not I will be a candidate for county executive."

While many say they respect Baker for his passion and commitment to public office, they also say they are mystified by him.

In 2002, Democratic Party leaders were ready to offer Baker, who was considered a rising star in the General Assembly, a rare new state Senate seat carved out especially for him through redistricting. Instead of running for the Senate seat, Baker announced that he was running for county executive. The field was crowded, full of well-known and well-financed politicians. Friends told him it was a mistake.

Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George's) pushed Baker to run for the Senate seat. Now, he's imploring him to stay out of the county executive race. Some say it could be political suicide.

"If he runs and loses twice it's going to be difficult for him if he ever wants to run again," Currie said. "He doesn't have a chance at winning. It's difficult to have the exposure that one needs to beat a sitting county executive."


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