In what is shaping up to be a bruising primary for governor, two Prince George’s County Democratic clubs are moving to increase voter awareness — and by extension flex the county’s political muscle — earlier than ever.
The Greater Bowie Democratic Club and the Eleanor & Franklin Roosevelt Democratic Club in Greenbelt are inviting Democrats who have expressed interest in running for governor to speak at Sunday brunches every other month and take questions from Prince George’s residents.
The club is particularly focused on quality of life issues such as preserving open space, reducing traffic congestion and building the Purple Line linking Bethesda to New Carrollton via Metro, said club president Emmett Jordan.
Todd Turner, president of the Greater Bowie Democratic Club, said it also wants to pay attention to improving state support for municipalities, bringing the FBI headquarters building to Prince George’s, improving the economy and bolstering Prince George’s education system.
Prince George’s has the largest number of registered Democrats in the heavily Democratic state at 443,643 and the second largest number of registered voters at 568,591, beneath Montgomery County, according to the state board of elections. It also produces the most registered Democratic primary voters in Maryland, according to the state.
“The people coming to these talks will vote in the primaries. They’re usually more affluent and liberal and will ask tough questions,” said Paul S. Herrnson, director of the Center for American Politics and Citizenship at the University of Maryland, College Park. “Their influence will be felt outside Prince George’s. Prince George’s is very large and can’t be ignored.”
Herrnson said the events may also help a candidate’s campaign get started, emphasizing the number of Prince Georgians that vote in primaries.
Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) came to the first event on April 14, attended by about 50 people, and the clubs plan to bring state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler to the next meeting in June.
“Listening to Marylanders is vital to the work that we do, so I want to thank both of the Prince George’s Democratic clubs that helped us have these important discussions,” Brown said.
No governor candidates have officially filed for the June 24, 2014, primary, according to the state. The filing deadline is April 9, 2014, with the general election on Nov. 4, 2014.
Top Democrat contenders for the race include Brown, Gansler, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, Del. Heather R. Mizeur (Dist.20) of Takoma Park and U.S. Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (Dist.2), while top Republican contenders could be Frederick County Commissioners president Blaine Young, 2012 U.S. Senate nominee Daniel Bongino, Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin (Dist.36) of Stevensville and former District 13 senator Martin G. Madden, Herrnson said.
Thomas Slezak, president of the Northern Prince George’s County Republican Club, said his club is hosting potential Republican governor candidates at its monthly meetings, such as hosting Blaine Young on April 24.
Slezak said Maryland has voted for a Republican governor before and with the “right candidate with the right message at the right time” it can happen again. Before Robert L. Ehrlich in 2002, the last Republican governor elected was Spiro Agnew in 1966.
“These events are about getting people exposed to who the candidates are and giving them a chance to talk with them in person,” Turner said.