Prince George's county executive candidates defend their records
More than 200 attend debate
Prince George's County Executive candidates Rushern L. Baker III and Michael Jackson defended their records at a crowded church forum Wednesday night.
Baker, a former state delegate who has failed in two previous bids for the seat, and Jackson, the county sheriff, are regarded by many as the frontrunners in the five-way race to succeed outgoing County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D). Both Baker and Jackson spent a solid chunk of their time before the estimated crowd of 220 at Reid Temple AME Church in Glenn Dale addressing criticism regarding their professional performances. All five candidates attended the forum.
Jackson denied accusations that he mishandled a July 2008 raid where deputies kicked in a door and shot two dogs while seizing a package of marijuana at the home of Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo, who police later deemed an innocent victim in a drug-delivery scheme.
"We've apologized for the incident, but we will never apologize for taking drugs off our streets," Jackson said. "Quite frankly, we'd do it again. Tonight."
Baker defended his actions regarding a nonprofit organization he ran since 2003, Community Teachers Institute. State records reveal the organization did not file proper tax forms on time from 2005 to 2009, which Baker said was because of funding shortfalls that prevented the group from paying for a state-required audit before submitting.
"I'm proud of the work Community Teachers has done," said Baker, who left the organization in June.
The three other county executive contenders, County Councilman Samuel Dean (D-Dist. 6) of Mitchellville, Del. Gerron Levi (D-Dist. 23A) of Bowie and former real estate developer Henry C. Turner Jr., trail behind Baker and Jackson when it comes to popularity with voters, according to polls conducted by Baker's and Jackson's campaigns.
Candidates at the forum said they need to inspire people and unite residents to overcome Prince George's reputation for having the worst schools and highest crime in the region.
"I have this plan to try and engage the public, to get the stakeholders involved," Levi said.
Dean shared his community work as councilman for the last eight years.
"I have delivered five schools," he said, referring to new schools built during his tenure. "I've been here for a very long time."
Turner, who has never held office, accused the other contenders of mediocre leadership.
"When I get elected, people aren't going to get jobs because they've worked on my campaign," Turner said.
"You're listening to a man that's a failed developer," Jackson later replied, which the audience booed.
E-mail Daniel Valentine at email@example.com.