A group of about 20 Montgomery County Jewish communal and political leaders have thrown their support behind Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker in the Democratic primary for Maryland’s gubernatorial race.
The group, Montgomery County Jewish Leaders for Rushern Baker, has plans to expand into other counties in the state, said Ann Lewis, one of the group’s organizers and a Friendship Heights resident.
“I had told some friends how impressed I was with Rushern,” said Lewis, a White House communications director for President Bill Clinton and former board member of the Jewish Women’s Archive. “I got a call asking if I wanted to meet him, and I did and all my positive feelings for him were confirmed.”
Baker, Lewis said, impressed her by what he accomplished in Prince George’s County. She pointed to increased economic opportunity — not just jobs, she added, but jobs that would let people feed their families — and better access to good education.
It was a natural next step, she added, to solidify support for Baker in the Jewish community.
“We’re really excited about it,” said Andrew Mallinoff, Baker’s campaign manager. “It really sprung up in a grassroots way.”
He referred to the same accomplishments noticed by Lewis as the key tenets of Baker’s campaign.
“Maryland is a great state, but not everyone has shared in the success of Maryland,” Mallinoff said. “In the economic recovery, a lot of people have been left behind.”
The group is working on building up its list. Lewis said they hope to host parlor meetings or publish op-eds outlining their support for Baker. As the primary gets closer, they also plan to enroll volunteers and mount get-out-the-vote efforts.
The group asked for — and already received — a statement from Baker on Israel. Lewis, a self-described “pro-Israel progressive,” said she felt it was important to the Jewish community that Maryland’s governor supports the relationships the state has built with Israel.
“A strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States because we share overarching strategic interests and the common values of democracy, equality, tolerance, and pluralism,” Baker said in the statement. He went on to express support of Israel’s defense and the two-state solution, as well as opposition to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
Mallinoff said that while most issues related to U.S.-Israel relations were federal, Baker would definitely look to grow investment in organizations like the Maryland Israel Development Center in Baltimore.
He called the relationship between the campaign and grassroots groups “a two-way street.” The campaign is listening to the concerns and issues important to these groups, he said, and the groups are helping get the campaign’s message out to various communities.
“We think that Rushern Baker’s message is going to resonate with the Jewish community, along with other communities,” he said.
Lewis agreed. She wants a candidate who “took the campaign as seriously as I take my endorsement,” she said, and found that in Baker.
“He really sees his role as making a difference for people,” she said. “I measure government [leaders] by what they do for people.”
Other members of the Jewish group supporting Baker include Michael Gelman, a former president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, lawyer and Jewish Federation for Group Homes Board member Leonard Bebchick and Izzy Klein, a former staffer for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). (Gelman is a member of the ownership group of Mid-Atlantic Media, which publishes Washington Jewish Week.)
The Democratic primary will be held June 28, 2018, narrowing the field of candidates — currently at eight — to one to face off against Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in November.