Rushern Baker, a Democrat running for governor, was the first candidate to be interviewed by former State Senator Bobby Zirkin on behalf of the MSBA. Baker reported that he was inspired to enter politics after one of his high school English teachers enlightened him about social injustice. After earning bachelor’s and law degrees from Howard University, Baker decided to stay in Prince George’s County and was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1994. He served as a delegate for eight years, and then ran a non-profit before being elected the Prince George’s County Executive in 2010, a position he held until his 2018 run for governor.
While his first bid was unsuccessful, he decided to run again after the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted disparities in health care and racial injustice that he hoped to address as governor. Baker feels that he could use the skills he developed during his time as a delegate and county executive not only to address these issues in Maryland, but to make Maryland a national leader with regard to handling such concerns.
Baker spoke extensively about how his administration would tackle criminal justice and public safety issues. He believes that to reduce crime rates, “you have to do two things at one time: one, you have to deal with the crime, and two, you have to prepare for the future.” He thinks that the Governor’s office should partner with cities to help achieve crime reduction goals, which may include introducing gun courts or increasing funding for the State Attorney’s office so they can better prosecute crimes. Baker does not believe that the violent crime bills introduced by Governor Larry Hogan, particularly the provisions dealing with judicial transparency and increased penalties for certain offenses, would be effective. He agrees that crimes need to be prosecuted thoroughly, but said the laws that allow for effective prosecution and significant penalties are already in place.
Instead, he believes a strong State’s Attorney’s office is necessary to address violent crime, by which he means “you give [them] more prosecutors, you provide more training for those prosecutors so they can put together better cases.” He also thinks that increased police training, better policing, and going through the backlog of outstanding warrants would help increase the impact of prosecution. He noted that increased crime prevention, which requires addressing drug abuse, mental health, and other health issues, is also crucial. Baker explained how he would tackle juvenile crime issues if elected as well.
Baker and Senator Zirkin also discussed the legalization of recreational marijuana use. Baker supports the initiative, and thinks that the General Assembly should move to get the issue on the ballot so that voters have a chance to weigh in. He stressed the importance of assessing the laws and regulations that go along with legalization, to avoid unjustly prosecuting people for activity that is lawful, and ensuring that some of the resources garnered via legalization go to communities that were harmed by the criminalization of marijuana use.
Baker thinks that it is an important time for the state and nation, and voters should not focus so much on what the candidates for governor believe in or say, but on what they can get done. He thinks that the Governor needs to be someone with experience, as Maryland is facing tough issues, and explained why he thinks he has the right background for the job.
You can view Rushern Baker’s entire interview here.