PRINCE GEORGE'S

Johnson Claims Reelection Win

Rushern L. Baker III chats with volunteers. With no Republican running, yesterday's winner will be county executive.
Rushern L. Baker III chats with volunteers. With no Republican running, yesterday's winner will be county executive. (By Andrea Bruce -- The Washington Post)

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By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson claimed a reelection victory early this morning after a facing a surprisingly tough challenge from Rushern L. Baker III.

"It's been a long night, a long day," Johnson told supporters shortly after 1 a.m. "We're going to have four more years, I can tell you that."

He spoke even though just half of the county's precincts had reported their results, and his lead was less than 4 percentage points. Baker had not conceded defeat.

Baker told supporters after midnight that he was not prepared to concede.

"We're going to stay up all night until every vote is counted," he said. "We want to make sure that people hear what you all are saying, that you want change."

Results were slow to arrive, an election worker said, because workers at more than half of precincts were unable to electronically upload their data to a central office and had to submit data manually instead.

Johnson, 57, was once thought virtually untouchable in his quest to lead Maryland's second-largest county for another four years. But Baker, 47, a former Maryland delegate, mounted an energized campaign late that resulted in an endorsement slugfest between the two in the last week before yesterday's Democratic primary.

First, former county executives Wayne K. Curry and Parris N. Glendening, who also served as governor, threw their support to Baker. Then State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey did, too. Johnson countered dramatically Friday, announcing the support of civil rights activist Jesse L. Jackson.

There is no Republican running, so whoever emerges victorious from the Democratic primary wins the job.

In other races, County Council member Douglas J.J. Peters was leading in a race to replace retiring Sen. Leo E. Green. In southern Prince George's, minister C. Anthony Muse led Del. Obie Patterson after a spirited race to replace Lawlah. And longtime education activist Donna Hathaway Beck was leading the crowded field of candidates for Board of Education. All three incumbents who faced challengers in their races for reelection to the County Council were ahead.

Voters were met by the last-minute campaigning as well as glitches such as inoperable voting machines that left some angry people unable or waiting to cast ballots.

From the start, the election hinged on residents' perceptions of the state of the county. Johnson portrayed Prince George's as a place on the move. He noted that though crime has risen during his term, recent statistics show it has dropped this year. He boasted of opening schools and overseeing improvements in the Prince George's bond rating, a sign that Wall Street thinks the county's financial health is improving.


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