Rushern Baker holds lead in Prince George's county executive race

Prince George's county voters headed to the polls to decide who will replace county executive Jack Johnson.
By Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 15, 2010; 2:22 AM

For former state delegate Rushern L. Baker III, the third time might be the charm. The lawyer held a substantial lead over his nearest opponent late Tuesday in the pivotal race to win the Democratic nomination to lead Prince George's County, the region's third-largest jurisdiction, and one of the most affluent majority-African American communities in the nation.

Baker, 51, seemed to brush aside four Democratic opponents, including the popular county sheriff. He had run for county executive twice before, losing both times to Jack B. Johnson, a former prosecutor whose eight years in office, Baker said, were marked by cronyism and lack of progress on vexing issues such as improving the commercial tax base, promoting more economic development and fixing the public school system.

Baker himself once led an effort to overhaul the county school board to boost the lagging schools.

Speaking to supporters at a party at Six Flags in Largo, Baker stopped short of declaring victory, but he said the message from voters was "loud and clear."

"I think the people have spoken. . . . Prince George's, it is time to make a good county great. This is not the finish. This is the beginning line. Our goal is greatness. We celebrate tonight, but tomorrow we rise with the same energy, dedication and passion that we claim as the victory in this campaign, to make a good county great."

The crowd echoed his cheer, chanting: "Good county great. Good county great."

No one sought the Republican nomination. But because of the overwhelming Democratic registration in Prince George's, the winner of Tuesday's primary would be heavily favored to win the general election Nov. 2 even if a Republican were on the ballot.

Jackson was trailing all evening. He told the crowd at his party, in a union hall in Suitland, that he was not conceding defeat, and was waiting for more results from election headquarters in Upper Marlboro.

"We are going to hang in there and watch those numbers come in. The most densely populated areas have not been counted yet," he said as he thanked his supporters and urged them to be patient.

Thousands of voters went to the polls in Prince George's to select nominees for county executive, County Council and dozens of other offices, but results trickled in slowly, due to some technical difficulties, an election official said.

Daneen Banks, deputy administrator of elections in Prince George's, said at about 1 a.m. that judges were supposed to use modems to send in results electronically from each precinct, but many apparently were unable to do so and instead drove the data cards to the elections board in Upper Marlboro, where the results were being uploaded.

With nearly 70 percent of the precincts reporting in the Democratic primary for county executive, Baker led Jackson, his closest competitor by a 4 to 3 ratio. Three other candidates were far behind.

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