Prince George’s County executive Rushern L. Baker III made a surprise visit to the county’s Democratic Central Committee Tuesday night to urge members to endorse a ballot initiative that would extend the number of terms the county executive and members of the County Council can remain in office.
Question “J” on the November ballot will ask county voters to decide whether to give the executive and legislators the opportunity to serve three terms instead of the current two-term limit.
Voters in the past have overwhelmingly opposed changing or repealing term limits, which were instituted by referendum in Prince George’s in 1992. But Baker said he believes times have changed, residents are more satisfied with their leaders, and the county would benefit from politicians being allowed to run for a third term,
“I would like you to endorse the ballot question,” Baker said told the committee’s 24 elected members. “You have more reach than I do.”
Fielding questions from committee members, Baker pushed hard against their fears that powerful incumbents with deep coffers would be locked into elected office unchallenged.
“You don’t want them there? Kick their asses out,” he said. “What this boils down to is whether you believe voters are mature enough to get rid of someone they are tired of.”
The central committee — which produces a sample ballot laying out the party’s positions and candidates — was not convinced. Some members wondered whether they would be overstepping their role by endorsing a specific position on the term limits question.
The debate ran late into the night, and the committee tabled the decision until its next meeting, on Sept. 23.
Meanwhile, citizen groups that oppose extending the number of terms politicians can serve are mobilizing in the county.
The Maryland Business Clergy Partnership announced Wednesday it is formally joining the “growing number of community organizations and voters” against three terms.
“The legislation is self-serving,” the Rev. Charles W. McNeill Jr. said in a statement.