“It may look like I’m always fighting someone, but I just want results,” said Muse, 60, who has broken with party leaders on issues including redistricting and same-sex marriage.
He faces steep competition from Prince George’s State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks and former congresswoman Donna F. Edwards, who have emerged as leaders in terms of fundraising and key endorsements in a nine-way race.
But Muse, a pastor with a compelling up-from-poverty story, says he is confident heading into the June 26 primary.
“I know the folks here, and I’ve served them . . . they don’t want more of the establishment,” said Muse, who was greeted by a man in an Oxon Hill IHOP the other day who remembered his preaching from his childhood. “God bless you,” Muse told the man, shaking his hand.
Minutes later, a mother approached with her 4-year-old son, Kevin, to wish Muse luck on the campaign. Muse thanked her, gave Kevin a high-five and told the little boy he could be governor one day.
Muse has a dedicated core of supporters, many of whom turn out to forums in shirts with his name on them. He has endorsements from unions representing volunteer firefighters, school principals and administrators, and local Teamsters, whose leaders said the state senator was “instrumental” in preventing the closure of two Safeway distribution plants in the county in 2016 that would have meant the loss of 700 warehouse jobs.
“He stuck with us,” said Ritchie Brooks, president of Teamsters Local 730. “Anytime we need him, he is there.”
Muse ran away from violence in his childhood home and lived on the streets of Baltimore and in several foster homes. He was adopted at age 13 by a United Methodist pastor, the Rev. George Stansbury — who, Muse said, instilled in him the value of public service.
He began his career in ministry at the age of 20, at a United Methodist church in Ellicott City, Md., and was pastor of Gibbons-Resurrection United Methodist Church in Brandywine before leaving the denomination to found the Ark of Safety Christian Church in Upper Marlboro. Muse graduated from Morgan State University, earned a master’s in divinity from Wesley Theological Seminary and received a doctorate in ministry, church and community development from Howard University.
Both Gibbons-Resurrection and the Ark of Safety church have had significant financial problems, a record that his critics say raises questions about Muse’s stewardship and management skills.
Longtime campaign adviser Wayne Clarke said accounts of the fiscal problems are “exaggerated lies.” He said Ark of Safety’s bankruptcy in 2012 was rooted in the foreclosure crisis, which devastated Prince George’s homeowners.
“The overall theme of him is he’s always fighting for little folks,” Clarke said. “That’s been the hallmark of his career.”
Muse is married to Pat Lawson Muse, an NBC Channel 4 news anchor. They do not have biological children, but they have acted as guardians over the years to several youngsters who had no other place to go, his campaign said, including a 6-year-old Muse met while officiating at her mother’s funeral in Southeast Washington.
In Annapolis, Muse has pushed for criminal justice restructuring, including a bill to expunge minor drug offenses, and passed legislation to improve services for victims of domestic violence. He consistently speaks against what he calls a “political machine” that he believes allows white lawmakers from outside the county to control politics in majority-black Prince George’s.
Muse was the first major county executive candidate to call for the ouster of Kevin Maxwell, the schools chief hired by outgoing county executive Rushern L. Baker III, who is running for governor. On the issue of development, Muse has joined Edwards in labeling Alsobrooks as too closely linked with the real estate industry.
But unlike Edwards, he has not sworn off contributions from developers, and he said he knows “the county has to have developers at the table” to continue its progress. “But they can’t have the whole table,” he added.
During his 2012 Senate bid, his campaign distributed literature that emphasized the absence of African American U.S. senators, and listed Jewish members of the Senate as a separate demographic category, implying that they were overrepresented in the chamber. Cardin, his Senate opponent, is Jewish. Muse at the time dismissed criticism of the literature as “an attempt to be negative.”
Muse said he is not concerned that Alsobrooks and Edwards are ahead of him in money and endorsements, noting that Democratic gubernatorial nominee Anthony G. Brown lost in 2014 to Republican Larry Hogan despite a serious funding advantage and the 2 to 1 ratio of Democratic voters in the state.
Clarke said Muse’s lagging fundraising dollars show he is “not controlled by special interests.”
“If you stand up for people, and not for industries, then you fall behind in terms of dollars,” he said.
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