PHILADELPHIA —Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) used a speech to Marylanders at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday as an opportunity to bash Republican governor Larry Hogan, the latest sign that Baker is weighing a run for the state’s top office in 2018.
Other potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates making the rounds at the convention include U.S. Rep. John Delaney and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.
Whoever wins the 2018 Democratic nomination will face a tall order in challenging Hogan, a moderate whose approval ratings are about 70 percent even though there are at least twice as many registered Democrats as registered Republicans in Maryland.
Party leaders, still smarting at Hogan’s upset of then-lieutenant governor Anthony Brown (D) in 2014, are determined to mount a strong candidate.
Baker, who is in his second term leading the state’s second-most populous county, has picked a public feud with Hogan over a series of budget decisions, including reduced state funding for the Purple Line light-rail system and the withholding in 2015 of supplemental funding for the state’s most expensive school systems.
He has repeatedly criticized the governor’s initial reluctance to include a $15 million subsidy for Prince George’s hospital system in his budget.
On Wednesday, Baker told a banquet hall of state party leaders and members that Hogan has been a “speed bump to progress” since succeeding Democrat Martin O’Malley in 2015.
“All the progress we made . . . has frankly come to a screeching halt,” Baker said to raucous applause. “Whether it is funding for education or access to health care, we have stopped investing in our future and it is hurting us.”
The Hogan administration vehemently dismisses Baker’s criticism, pointing out that Prince George’s gets more state support than any other county, including hundreds of millions of dollars for the school system and transportation projects, such as the Purple Line.
“I wasn’t aware that the county executive had constituents in Philadelphia,” Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer quipped on Wednesday when asked about Baker’s speech.
“It’s unfortunate to hear the tone of his remarks when he has a reputation of being a very nice guy,” Mayer said. “I hope he returns soon so he can leave the national partisanship behind and join with the governor in changing Maryland for the better.”
The county executive, who is a superdelegate to the convention, made the remarks during a “Maryland Day” event, which offered a platform to tout his record luring businesses and development to Prince George’s and increasing education spending.
Baker’s political campaign organized transportation for nearly 200 state Democrats to attend the event.
“When Prince George’s County or any place in our great state offers a better quality of life for people and businesses, we all win,” Baker said. “It has not been an easy road, but we made tremendous strides.”
His criticism of Hogan — who has been deeply critical of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and skipped the GOP’s convention last week — was long on rhetoric but short on specifics.
“Sure, he says he is not planning to vote for Mr. Trump,” Baker said of Hogan. “But when you say you don’t support Trump and ultimately end up adopting his policies, you have about as much credibility as a degree from Trump University.”
Baker did not cite particular policies in his speech.
Kamenetz, who addressed the Maryland delegation Tuesday morning, was slated to host a late-night party at the convention Wednesday night and has been distributing a convention news flier called the Kamenetz Chronicle under the hotel-room doors of members of the delegation each morning.
He has hired Colleen Martin-Lauer, a prominent fundraiser for state Democrats who worked for O’Malley’s mayoral and gubernatorial campaigns.
Other Democrats often mentioned as possible gubernatorial candidates are U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez and former state attorney general Doug Gansler, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination in 2014.
Josh Hicks contributed to this report.