WHEATON-GLENMONT, Md. — The changing face of Maryland and its growing diversity has inspired a history-making choice in the race for governor.
Rushern Baker, former Prince George’s County Executive, and former candidate for governor says he’s ready to run again. He’s chosen a number two that he thinks reflects the shift in Maryland – and his vision for the way forward.
Baker broke the news first about selecting Montgomery County councilwoman Nancy Navarro as his running mate to WUSA9.
“I’m excited about picking a running mate early," Baker said. "I wanted to pick somebody really early so that we could actually travel the state together."
This is not Baker’s first time seeking Maryland’s highest office. But, he hopes, the second time will be the charm.
Navarro, however, said she hadn’t given much thought to running for public office again, but she had long respected the work and character of Baker.
“Rushern Baker is someone that I have admired for a very long time," the councilwoman said.
Baker and Navarro are leaders in two of Maryland’s most populous counties. Now they are teaming up across borders seeking to move the state forward.
“I had the benefit of picking somebody that I had known for years, and I’d respected in the three areas we talked about that are priorities: education, watching her work in the public education in Montgomery County,” Baker said. “But then watching the work on the council that she’s done around economic development around public safety and police reform.”
Baker admits that in 2018 he didn’t do enough listening to voters in Baltimore, Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore and thought what he did in Prince George’s County was enough. He says this time will be different.
Editor's Note: The video below is from June 2017 during Baker's first gubernatorial run.
Navarro is no stranger to firsts in her political career.
She was the first Latina elected to Montgomery County’s board of education and county council and the only woman still serving in that legislative body. She’s finishing out the end of her term in the council.
Together, Baker and Navarro will run on a platform centered on economic recovery, post-pandemic.
“Getting the economy rolling, making sure that everybody’s inclusive in this new economy, these opportunities that are going to rise, I think that’s one of the first things that we want to do, along with public safety," Baker said. "People are hurting right now.”
That “pain” is hurting Black and Brown people disproportionately in the state, as it undergoes a demographic shift. Census data suggests that Maryland is now the most diverse state on the East Coast with a growing Hispanic population.
Navarro’s work on inclusion has worked to ensure that key decisions and systems in Montgomery County reflect an equity lens that would benefit the entire state.
“For me, equity is framed around this notion of shared prosperity," Navarro said. "Oftentimes, when we talk about equity, there’s the sense that it means you are taking something away. The idea is to expand opportunities so that everyone has a fair chance.”
Navarro was born in Venezuela and thought after coming to the U.S. at the age of 10 that she would eventually go back for good. But destiny had other plans.
Ultimately, she married and had two daughters in here in Maryland. She started her career working first for a nonprofit, and then as a public servant.
It hasn’t always been easy, Navarro said, especially in the current political climate. But Navarro said politics at its best should reflect people and possibilities.
“I also believe in occupying spaces to normalize a different way of being in politics to show that there are other ways that you can enhance your community, that you can serve your community without resorting to all that negativity," she said.
As this duo embark on their history-making journey, it is, of course, impossible to talk about this run for office without talking about Baker’s late wife,Christa
She died late last month after a decade-long battle with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Baker believes his partner in love and service would have given this new partnership her blessing.
“She had a big smile, she was alert," Baker said of his late wife. "So I think this is really us doing it the way Christa Beverly would do it. I think even with this partnership, it’s what Christa would want. I carry her spirit in this.”
That spirit will carry Baker and Navarro across the state starting on Wednesday, Oct. 13 when they officially launch their ticket.