Former NAACP chief Ben Jealous and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III bickered throughout their battle in the Maryland Democratic gubernatorial primary.
Jealous denounced Baker’s handpicked schools chief and questioned his top rival’s efforts to reform the state’s second-largest public school system. Baker shook his head in disbelief as Jealous outlined plans for expansive new government programs at debates, noting that he — not Jealous — had experience managing bureaucracies and government spending.
On Wednesday, the two politicians traded compliments and said they had patched things up.
“We’ve been family in politics for a long time,” said Jealous, who beat Baker and four other Democrats in the June 26 primary. “Sometimes you fight like family. But at the end of it, you’re family.”
Baker accompanied Jealous on a tour of Dream Village, a minority-owned co-working space in Hyattsville that typifies the type of economic development Baker has pushed in nearly eight years as county executive.
And while Baker insisted during the primary that economic success in Prince George’s set him apart from other candidates, he declared Wednesday that Jealous’s work at Kapor Capital, a socially conscious investment firm, also made him well-suited to spread an “inclusive economy” throughout the state.
“Everybody coming out of here is going to hire someone to work with them,” Baker said of the co-working space, which seeks to serve as an incubator for small-business owners. “You need a governor that understands this is the type of partnership that’s going to grow the economy.”
It was the first joint appearance by the two Democratic front-runners since last month’s primary (plans for a meeting two days after the election were postponed after the mass shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis).
Baker, who was endorsed by most of Maryland’s Democratic political establishment, had pledged immediately after the election to do all he could to help Jealous deny a second term to incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who remains highly popular in the state, and has been endorsed by a raft of lesser-known Democratic officials.
“Where they ask us to plug in, we’re going to do that,” Baker said Wednesday.
Jealous also joined Baker and other Democrats — including state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. D-(Calvert) and former gubernatorial candidate Valerie Ervin — Wednesday evening at a “unity celebration” hosted by the Prince George’s County Democrats in Forestville.
Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Matthews said rallying Democrats around their nominee is a key part of drawing high turnout in November from the party faithful, which Democrats failed to do on the state level in 2014 and nationally in 2016.
“You cannot take any voter for granted,” she said.
Jealous, who was backed during the primary by national Democrats including Sens. Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Cory Booker (N.J.), but won few endorsements from elected officials in Maryland, said he is heartened to now have their support.
“As I said, we fight like family and we come together like family. We’re in the coming together phase and it feels good.”