Delegate Danica Roem joins us to talk traffic, tolls and the 2019 Va. legislative session, and Delegate Dereck Davis tells us why he wants to be the next speaker of Md.'s House of Delegates.
A proposal to modify school boundaries in D.C. triggers debate among the city’s mayoral candidates. Federal auditors issue subpoenas in their investigation of Maryland’s troubled health exchange. And courtroom action winds down in the corruption of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell and his wife. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
- Rushern Baker Executive, Prince George's County (Md.) (D)
- Karl Racine Democratic Candidate, Attorney General, District of Columbia
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Watch live video of Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker and DC Attorney General candidate Karl Racine as they join us to discuss politics and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University, in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Later in the broadcast we'll be joined by Karl Racine. He is a Democratic candidate for attorney general of the District of Columbia. Our first guest that we'll soon be speaking with is Rushern Baker, executive -- county executive of Prince George's County, Democrat, who's up for reelection in November. You should know that we have a live video stream of today's broadcast, which you can access by going to our website, kojoshow.org.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIYou'll be seeing both yours truly and our resident analyst there, Tom Sherwood. He's a reporter for NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Tom, a lot of sad news that I'd like to start out with so we get it done and not have to wait too late for it. Several individuals who we know have died. Edward Norton, the former husband of D.C. delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and in his own right, an activist in the District of Columbia, who headed up our, what, elections.
MR. TOM SHERWOODYes, he did. Back in the -- yes, in the 1980s he was an accomplished lawyer, but, you know, when Eleanor Holmes Norton ran -- when Walter Fauntroy gave up his seat to run for mayor, Eleanor Holmes Norton, with her own distinguished career in government and politics and activism, ran for the job. And it turned out they had not paid income taxes.
MR. TOM SHERWOODAnd it was just the most -- Donna Brazile was the chief aid at that time to Eleanor Holmes Norton. It was just a terrible time. And Norton -- Edward, he basically came around to just saying, "You know, I just let it go." And Eleanor, unfortunately for a strong feminist politician, she had to say, "Well, I kind of left it up to him," which was not the kind of thing she really wanted to say, but that's what she said.
MR. TOM SHERWOODAnd it had the ring of truth because it was so unlike her. But in any event, he was a terrific guy and he has been ill for some time. That incident helped end their marriage.
NNAMDIYes. They were divorced -- she filed for divorce shortly after that, a point at which she said he was surprised by that. But Edward Norton will be missed. And a friend of yours and mine, well-known broadcaster Jerry Phillips. I worked with him at WHUR radio, as they say, back in the day. You also worked with him fairly extensively over the years on "Reporter's Notebook," on NBC 4.
SHERWOODRight. And argued with him in the cafeteria over there a lot.
NNAMDIJerry loved to argue, that's for sure.
SHERWOODBut he was good at it. You know, when he was on the meet -- the "Reporter's Notebook" thing, and I would host it, and whenever he wanted to talk about what people were saying, he would say, "People in the street." And I'd say, "Jerry, get out of the street," you know, "that's dangerous to be in the street." And so -- but every -- so he did it. It took about 10 shows before he stopped saying it.
SHERWOODBut that was his favorite saying, which said to him, you know, I've been talking to people around as I go around our great city, and this is what they think about whatever the subject was. He was polite and, you know, for me he was way too polite.
NNAMDIHe loved talking to people in the street. Way back in 1980 he and I covered the Democratic National Convention in New York. And his favorite part of the broadcast -- he was the morning host at WHUR -- was the part at which we got to go into the street and ask passersby in New York...
SHERWOODI'm telling you he just had to be in the street all the time. You know, he was -- he had The Breakfast Club.
SHERWOODAnd that's when I first started working for the Post in the early '80s. I went over to The Breakfast Club there at the -- what was it -- on Georgia Avenue, the hotel.
NNAMDIThe Howard University -- for Howard Inn, I guess it was called.
SHERWOODHoward University? Or was it called Harambee House or something like that?
NNAMDIFirst Harambee House then the Howard Hotel. Howard, yeah.
SHERWOODSo I went over there. That's how I kind of got my start in politics, in city politics and electronic journalism.
NNAMDIHe's been around for so long that he is also know to our first guest, Rushern Baker, who is the county executive of Prince George's County. Rushern Baker, you knew Jerry Phillips, did you not?
MR. RUSHERN BAKERI did. I did. He was great. I remember him when he was at the Howard Inn…
BAKER…in the show. And in fact, when I first got into politics, as I first ran, I went to the morning show that he was doing and he asked me really tough questions…
BAKER…that made me nervous.
SHERWOODIn a very polite way.
BAKERIn a very, very nice way, which I should have known wasn't going to be the habit of most folks.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments for Rushern Baker give us a call at 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Another loss, Sylvia Cookie Harris is the wife of Republican Congressman Andy Harris in Maryland. And she was well known around the state house because he served 10 years in the general assembly.
BAKERHe did. He was a state senator in the general assembly before going to Congress. And certainly our thoughts and prayers go out to Congressman Harris and his family. I knew him. You know, we overlapped a little bit in the general assembly. So I know it's a tough loss for him and for his family.
NNAMDIYou were supposed to be here last week. You couldn't be here because you had an emergency in your own family. How's your wife?
BAKERMy wife is doing very well. Thank you very much. And certainly we got a lot of thoughts and prayers and like many families we're going through our challenges, but she's doing well. Hopefully, listening to the show at home. You know, she's a…
SHERWOODDid she pick out that shirt you're wearing?
BAKERYou know, and she loves this shirt. She's got one herself. So she loves it very much.
SHERWOODYou -- they have to go online to see this shirt.
NNAMDIIt's a National Night Out blue…
NNAMDIYes, electric blue shirt.
BAKERWe stand out.
NNAMDIOn to the politics of D.C. school boundaries, Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODOh, there are none.
NNAMDIOh, there are none, great.
SHERWOODWe can skip that. There's nothing happening in...
NNAMDIAfter a long and drawn out process involving, it seems, thousands of people from communities in D.C., the committee that the mayor put together came out with proposals. Mayor Vincent Gray endorsed the proposals. And within 24 hours of his endorsing the proposals, at least two of the candidates for mayor, Muriel Bowser, who is the Democratic candidate, and David Catania, who is running as an Independent for this position -- Catania saying, "I think these should be delayed." Muriel Bowser saying, "I don't like them at all. And if I am elected," or when, she feels that she's elected…
NNAMDI…she's going to revoke them completely.
SHERWOODYes. She had a "Green Eggs and Ham" kind of remark about it. She -- I don't like them at all. You know, this is interesting. They did spend a long time. We have not had school boundary changes in the city since the 1960s or early '70s. And we've had huge population shifts. We've had dozens of schools close. And it's a major change of how you go from elementary school to a middle school to a high school. The city, you know, this plan, you know, there aren't enough middle schools for the children that are being planned for.
SHERWOODIt requires a lot of moving parts. David Catania was first out of the box as the candidate and the Education Committee chairman, saying, "Look, this is a good plan. They worked hard." And he complemented the mayor and the staff for doing it. He says, "But this is too much to do by the time school starts one year from now." So he has recommended at least another year delay to 2016.
SHERWOODAnd he says we need to make some changes to make sure we don't take children from well-performing schools and put them in under-performing schools. Muriel Bowser waited a day or two later. And she came out with -- he wrote -- Catania wrote a two-page single-space analysis. A day or so later Muriel Bowser came out with a two-paragraph statement, saying, "I'm junking the whole thing. I don't want to have anything to do with it. I'll start all over."
SHERWOODAnd then she told the Post in an interview that she would keep Kaya Henderson, the school chancellor, out of the process. And she would just do it herself or have her own people do it. Well, Kaya Henderson is the chancellor, pretty well liked. And she has a legal role in this. She has to approve the thing at the end. So I don't know what all that's about. But it is certainly a major issue now in the D.C. mayor's race.
NNAMDIThe politics of this -- I suspect there was not widespread sentiment for starting this whole process over again because it took so long and it appeared to be so diligent. But one cannot help noticing that Mayor Gray has not yet -- if he ever will -- endorse the Democratic candidate, Muriel Bowser, who seeks to replace him. Could this be a part of this?
SHERWOODWell, no. I think there are a lot of reasons Mayor Gray doesn't like Muriel Bowser. You know, she said that she -- you know, she called on him to resign during his -- the lowest days of the controversy of his campaign scandal that's still not over. And I'm pretty sure during the campaign she said that if Vincent Gray won the primary that she would not support him. I can't remember -- I'm just -- I probably shouldn't have said that until I find the exact quote, but I'm pretty sure that's right.
NNAMDIYou'll get called on it, that's for sure.
SHERWOODBut, you know, the mayor -- and the Post editorial page today, which has been very favorable Muriel Bowser, has come out and urged Bowser and David Catania to be more accommodating with this plan and help make it work, not to ditch it.
NNAMDIBefore we get to Prince George's County, one more political thing in D.C. Tom Lindenfeld is no longer with the Bowser campaign. Longtime activist, in both D.C. politics and politics around the nation -- is involved in a scandal in the city of Philadelphia, where he was involved in a mayoral campaign there. And where he has been named in a court case that's going on there. I had heard earlier this week that he is no longer with the Bowser campaign. He is considered a pretty good strategist. What does this all mean?
SHERWOODTom Lindenfeld is the guy you hire when you want to get out the vote operation. Where you know what you're doing on the ground throughout the jurisdiction where you're running. Lindenfeld has, you know, he helped Tony Williams, he helped Adrian Fenty. He was helping Muriel Bowser. He's helped other candidates here and around the country. He was an Obama presidential campaign, of course.
SHERWOODAnd then he was in Philadelphia in 2007 helping…
SHERWOOD…Chaka Fattah, a terrible run for mayor. Didn't do well. I think he placed fourth. But now the prosecutors up there and the Philadelphia papers are reporting that there was this million dollar shifting around of funds…
SHERWOOD…in order to have money for that campaign. And Tom Lindenfeld has come up in getting some of that money. I sent a text to him. He sent me a text back saying, "Thank you for your interest, but," you know, "I'm going to fight this," or whatever he's going to do.
NNAMDIWe're going to see what happens.
SHERWOODIt hurts Muriel Bowser because he has been working on Bowser's get-out-the-vote effort. She was -- she rightly, very quickly, moved to say he's no longer part of the campaign this week.
SHERWOODSo that's done.
NNAMDIBut she also said we want transparency in our campaign, which seemed to imply or at least I certainly inferred, that she felt that Lindenfeld had not been straight with the campaign.
SHERWOODNo. I think that was just a political ninth-grade civics class thing to say about government. I don't think it meant anything. But I think it does mean that they don't know have the general who runs the get-out-the-votes. So they'll have to either buy some folks or get some other people to focus. I think Lindenfeld helped bring Bo Shuff, the campaign manager onto that campaign. He was an integral part of the campaign. And so I -- it's -- we'll see how they react to it.
NNAMDIRushern Baker is our guest. He is the county executive of Prince George's County, Md. He's a Democrat who is up for reelection in November. Rushern Baker, Dan Snyder says he wants to build a new stadium. He's already meeting with architectural firms. They have already started designing this new stadium. He -- there was no mention of where this stadium is likely to be. The current stadium for the burgundy and gold is, of course, in Prince George's County.
NNAMDIAnd I'm sure you are hoping that the new stadium is there, too. But you've got to know that the District is very interested in bringing the team back here.
BAKERYes, I do know that. Yeah, we're very pleased with the work that we're doing with the Washington organization with Dan Snyder. (unintelligible)…
SHERWOODYou know, we have to point out, he does not say the team's name.
NNAMDIYes. I say burgundy and gold. He said Washington organization. What else will we think of next?
BAKERThey are a great corporate partners and they do a fantastic job. And we've enjoyed having them in Prince George's County. And I think they're a significant part of the fabric of the community there. And so, yes, we'd like to -- we certainly want to see them stay.
SHERWOODVictor Hoskins, your -- what's his title as economic czar?
BAKERHe is the -- yeah, I like that. And he probably would like it, too. He is our new deputy county administrator for economic development…
NNAMDIStolen from the District.
BAKER…and public -- yes, we did.
SHERWOODAnd in an interview just published within the hour in the Washington Business Journal, Victor Hoskins says that you guys will fight to keep the Skins there. Now, FedEx Field has not been the economic…
NNAMDIHe says Skins. Go ahead.
SHERWOODOkay. We'll all be called on this, I guess.
SHERWOODThere hasn't been a great deal of economic development around the state. And I believe that -- and there has been a lot of traffic. And Jack Evans, who is, you know, Mr. Sports, in the District of Columbia and the City Council…
BAKERYes, he is.
SHERWOOD…says, "Look, you can't go out to Loudoun County in Northern Virginia and recreate the same situation, where you have a stadium along the Beltway, where you have traffic 10 days a year. Of course it has to go to RFK where the city would cooperate in having them build a new 75,000 domed stadium right there at the site of RFK. Where do you think you are in the competition?
BAKERNo. I think we've got a pretty good leg up. One, because the team is currently there now. And if you look at the things that are going on in the county in terms of economic development, I think you rightly pointed out, Tom, that there's currently -- or when the stadium was built there was nothing else around it. But now, close to the stadium, on Largo Metro Station is going to be a $650 million regional health care facility, which will bring in mixed-used development along that -- Wegmans is just around the corner in that whole development along the Woodmore Towne Center.
BAKERLandover Mall, which is in competition with -- where the FBI has looked at and will be developed. And so that whole area, now that it connects to the stadium, will be an economic hub. And just down the road to the south of the stadium we're going -- we are hoping to announce at our Ritchie Towne Center there, they're going to bring in some sports-type restaurants.
BAKERSo I think we can accommodate the things that Mr. Snyder wants for the team and for the fans that are coming here. We wanted to make it not just coming for the game, but staying for dinner and certainly staying for, you know, for the night.
SHERWOODWell, I think football fans are -- they like to eat in the back of their cars and vans and…
BAKERThey do that pretty well.
SHERWOOD…tailgate. What -- is anything new on the FBI move?
NNAMDII was about to say, two sites under consideration for the new headquarters for the FBI in Prince George's County.
BAKERYeah, so we've got double the chance.
NNAMDIYeah, well, it's -- any developments?
SHERWOODIt's just like high-stakes, like being at a casino and betting. You're betting a lot on the FBI, 11,000 customers -- I mean, employees. And then whether you get a new stadium. Would it be right there, the same spot?
BAKERYou know, I think -- well, Landover Mall is in competition for the FBI. And I think the Lerner family and Learner organization which has Landover Mall certainly will make -- I mean, it's a great site. It will help in terms of economic development around that area. And I think would fit nicely in with what the Washington organization would want to see.
SHERWOODYou agree that FedEx Stadium is not very nice to look at, though. It's not very homey and friendly. Since Dan Snyder said he wants a place that rock and rolls like RFK did.
SHERWOODHe even had the architects design the seats so they'll bounce up and down if you…
BAKERWell, you certainly, you know, have -- RFK was a smaller facility and so it was close in. But, you know, when that facility was built in FedEx, the idea was to have a number of seats. You had so many fans, so many people who wanted to come there. It was really to make it bigger. So they purposely went away from the closed-in feeling. Now, stadiums are going back to the closed-in feeling. And I think, you know, I think Mr. Snyder's done a great job in reconfiguring the stadium.
NNAMDIAnd there's still…
SHERWOODDoes everybody have to call…
NNAMDI…13 more years on that lease. Right?
BAKERYes, there is.
NNAMDIBut you could buy that out at $20 million a year.
BAKERWell, I don't know if you can buy it out at $20 million a year, but…
SHERWOODDoes everybody call him Mr. Snyder? I mean, you're -- are you just doing that to be polite?
BAKERNo. I think most people call him…
SHERWOODOkay. I just wondered. All right. Mr. Snyder, Mr. Cook, all these…
SHERWOODYou can call me Mr. Sherwood, there you go.
NNAMDIIn addition to stealing Victor Hoskins from the District of Columbia, he will soon be accompanying you, in just a few days, on a trip to China on an economic trip. What are you looking to accomplish there? And why are you organizing the trip at the same time as the District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray will be there?
BAKERWell, I think it's a great, you know, and we have a great partnership with the District of Columbia, first of all. And one of the things we were excited about getting Victor to come on board was his relationship with China and the investment they've been able to do in D.C. And I had said going into, you know, the next four years and in this campaign, that we were going to be very aggressive about our push for economic development and getting the entire world to look at Prince George's County as the place to be.
BAKERSo going to China's about looking at investments in some of the area in Prince George's County that we think have great opportunity, like Largo, like Suitland, like Branch Avenue. And we see that…
BAKERCapitol Heights. You know, you see that the Chinese are investing here. But we're also taking businesses from the county and from the state with us on this mission to set up businesses there also. And with the District going with the mayor, we're working on couple of great projects together.
SHERWOODYou're actually meeting with the mayor while you're over there.
SHERWOODRight? You have some joint appearances.
BAKERWe have joint appearances. And we'll be talking about joint projects in Prince George's County and the District of Columbia.
SHERWOODCan I ask a question on -- and this is more city politics. We have a lame-duck mayor, who's been a lame-duck since April 1st. Mayor Gray will be leaving office on January 2nd. He's got four months to go. He's not going to really be in the position to -- what can he do as a lame-duck mayor to do something in China for this 10-day period? Someone's called it a good -- a farewell tour for him.
SHERWOODBut, you know, he's trying to do the best he can to be the mayor until the last hour. But it just seems to me that he can't talk to business people there and investors with any certainty because he's a lame-duck.
BAKERWell, I think what he's doing and what anybody would do, you know, if, you know, not to be presumptuous on my part, you know. I've got an election in November. And there are two people running. And I'm sure they're listening to your program and say, you know…
SHERWOODEric Cantor, call your office.
BAKERExactly. So, you know, but I think what you try to do is your job until you close out the lights. One of the things that he's doing and we're doing together are working on projects that we've been talking about for the last four years. Certainly doing a trip together is not -- we didn't just think of it yesterday. We talk about this from the beginning and the timing just never got there. A lot on our part in the county.
SHERWOODYou know, if he gets clear of that investigation of his campaign, he would be available for -- he told me this week, he said he would be looking for a job, if I knew anything, you know, after January 2nd he may -- you could hire him and -- assuming the investigation clears up.
BAKERWell, we've got Nick Majett over there. And…
BAKER…you know, we've got Victor and certainly, you know, we look at the growth of the District of Columbia -- I think everyone in the region has taken notice of the fact that it's grown substantially and doing a great job. And we want to capitalize on that. We're the Washington region. Certainly I've had meetings with Councilmember Bowser and, you know, I think she appreciates the stuff that's going on.
SHERWOODOh, wait a minute. You've had meetings with Councilmember Bowser? What about Councilmember David Catania?
NNAMDIMember Catania, what about former Councilmember Carol Schwartz?
SHERWOODOh, you -- but you -- I guess as a Democrat you've endorsed Muriel Bowser.
BAKERYeah, I mean, she's a…
SHERWOODBut you'll work with whoever wins, the people select. All right.
BAKERThat's very good. Yes.
NNAMDITom's -- you notice Tom asks and answers his own questions.
SHERWOODYour press guy, Scott Peterson, is out there having a, you know, holding onto his hat.
BAKERYeah, she's the Democratic nominee. And then certainly we've had a chance to sit down and chat and I'm looking forward to working with, you know, the District's going great stuff and certainly we want to capitalize on the work that we're doing with the mayor and around the region.
NNAMDIGentlemen, put on your headphones please because we have a caller. Our guest Rushern Baker, county executive of Prince George's County, Md. A Democrat up for reelection in November. Here is Sandi, in Washington, D.C. Sandi, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Hi, Sandi. Are you there? Sandi?
SANDIYes, Kojo. I'm here. I'm sorry, it was muted.
NNAMDIGo right ahead, please.
SANDIMy family's from Maryland and, Rushern, we have a question. I know that you all mentioned Chaka Fattah earlier, we're talking about different scandals that occur in politics. And even when there's a history of great work, there's often exposure to risks. So elected officials have their, you know, sort of crew that's been with them since college and they stand up businesses and then there's contracts and benefits that they receive because now -- pardon the expression -- but their boy is in power. And there are things that they want to accomplish, some think they're noble.
NNAMDIYour question, Sandi?
SANDIWell, I just want to understand if he can attest to the fact that he doesn't have those kinds of relationships, that folks aren't benefiting from contracts under his watch and there isn't any other shoe that's going to drop after he leaves office or at any other time that shows, you know…
NNAMDIWell, there are only two ways he can respond to that question, Sandi. He can either say, yes, I am, in fact, giving out contracts to my cronies and when I leave office, there's likely to be a scandal about that. Or what he is about to say now.
BAKERWhich is no. One of the things you try to do is clearly you have talent -- you try to get talented people into positions in your government. And then you let them do their job. And you try to set -- in my case, what I try to do is set the policy and the philosophy of how we want to change Prince George's County.
BAKERAnd then we let good people do that. So there's enough distance between me and a contract. So a lot of times somebody will come to me and say, you know, I'd really like to get this right here. And I won't know what they're talking about because we stick to policy.
NNAMDIWell, speaking of that, will be always aware of your whereabouts when you are in China? One remembers that when your predecessor took a trip to Africa, there were times when he seemed to be missing in action, so to speak. Will there be complete transparency during your trip to China?
BAKERYes. There is always complete transparency. You'll know where we are. And because part of what we'll be doing -- we probably give more information than people want -- is…
SHERWOODBut we'll put a -- we'll put a GoPro on your head. But I think what she's talking about, though, is the nature of politics, whether it was jack Johnson before you or Bob McDonnell currently in Virginia, or Mayor Berry, or anybody -- or Governor Mandel. You can name the four governors in Illinois who all went to prison…
SHERWOOD…is that when -- with great power comes great temptation.
BAKERWell, you know I'm glad you asked that. We -- I was just up in Wall Street and talking to the rating agency. And when I started a conversation about how we've changed things in Prince George's County, the first thing I mentioned was something we don't about now, and that's an ethics bill that we put in as a first piece of legislation. And it wasn't easy to get through because you had new council members, new people coming on that said, I've never done anything wrong.
BAKERSo why are we restricting how we can either receive donations or interact with businesses? And it was because we wanted to send a strong signal up front that this was going to be different, which is why we changed a whole ethics agency. We brought in an executive director. We made an agreement with the state's attorney's office.
BAKERWe set up hotlines so people could -- can provide tips. We put some distance between the executive director of the ethics office that can bring charges, between that office and the county executive so you couldn't directly fire the person.
SHERWOODSo if you cross that ethics line you know it.
NNAMDIWell, Tom mentioned some of the scandal-ridden either administrations or politicians who preceded you in Maryland history. One of those who was not scandal-ridden we have not had a chance to talk to you about since he died, and that was Wayne Curry.
NNAMDIOne of your own mentors.
BAKERYeah, he was one of the best. The reason Wayne was able to get through four years without having any hint of scandal was he was very, very cautious. And, you know, he knew a lot of people from the business community. He respected -- and he would tell them, we're going to give you opportunity, but that's an opportunity for everybody.
BAKERAnd if you don't do -- if you're not qualified for the job you're not going to get it. And -- but just because he had a love of the county and wanting to see it move forward. We'll miss him. I miss him.
SHERWOODAnd even if somebody that you are close to gets a contract through proper means, they -- if they don't perform -- this is what used to drive me crazy about Mayor Berry, is, you know, he would -- his crony guys would get the contracts and then they wouldn't do anything. I said to him, "You know, they get the money and the contracts, you get all the grief. I don't understand it." So you have to make sure people that you do know and like -- if they have city business -- actually do their jobs or you pay the price.
BAKERRight. And we've made changes in the administration when we see people are not performing the way that we think they should perform. You know I get, I get kidded sometimes because we hire a lot of folks who happen to go to Howard University, a great place and some place I went. But each and every one of those individuals has gone through an interview process before they get to me.
BAKERSo if someone comes and says, hey, I'd love to work for your government, I say, great, because we don't turn anybody down without interviewing them first. And I say, here are the people you have to. If you get through there and you're in a pool, then we want to talk to you.
NNAMDILast time we spoke to you on this broadcast you were enjoying an easy glide to victory in a Democratic primary for reelection, a race in which you ran unopposed. But that's not to say that the months that followed have been without challenges. There's been a string of homicides it the county recently. Several of which have been linked to domestic violence. From where you're sitting, what do you feel needs to be done?
BAKERYeah, we looked, and, you know, I should start off by saying, we're still down about 14 percent in homicides from last year's low, which was about 12 percent from the year before, a 33 percent low. So we're down in homicide. One of the things that we noticed -- and this was the state's attorney and myself, Angela Alsobrooks and our sheriff -- was that every indicator of violent crime in Prince George's County was going down. The one thing that was staying steady was domestic violence.
BAKERAnd getting control of that -- 13 of the homicides that we've had this year in Prince George's County are domestic in relation. And so that's a combination of many things. It's -- the police do a great job of arresting people and finding the folks. And the state's attorney does a great job in prosecuting them. What we have to get better at is providing services before these things happen. There are indicators either in the family, the church -- somebody has seen -- some of the schools.
BAKERSo we're putting a lot of resources in things that cause frustrations in the home. Mental health is a big part of what this administration has talked about. Jobs for kids during the summer and job opportunities, economic development. All of those things that go into what leads to someone taking these actions.
SHERWOODWell, I just want to note that the NFL this week, yesterday or within the last day or so, put out its policy for domestic violence, that there's a six-game suspension for anyone convicted or being involved in that, plus counseling. A second time will be a year's suspension and possibly longer. So at least -- what is causing this almost explosion of domestic violence cases? Not just here, but all around?
BAKERAll around the country. I mean, there are many factors. A lot has to do with health -- you mentioned counseling. Not just spiritual counseling, which is very important, but also mental counseling. Frustration, financial frustrations. You know, lack of opportunities. So there are a lot of things that go into lead -- that lead into this. And so what we have to do is go after it. Not just from a public safety standpoint, but from a holistic standpoint.
SHERWOODAnd what bugs me about it is we call it domestic violence and I know that it works both ways, but this is really assaults on women.
SHERWOODIn this is real assault on women.
BAKERRight. Right. And behavior that is…
SHERWOODDomestic violence, sounds like something that -- like an academic paper. Okay.
NNAMDIWe mentioned earlier that there are a lot of people in this area who graduated from Howard University in general and Howard University Law School in particular. You're not necessarily giving them contracts. If you do, you'll make sure they do their work. We have an individual on the line, who I think is also a graduate of that law school. I don't know if he's gotten any contracts in Prince George's County. But Ike Leggett is the county executive of Montgomery County. Ike Leggett, I'm sure you don't have any contracts in Prince George's County, do you?
MR. IKE LEGGETTNo, no. I don't have any and I'm sure that Rushern is going to handle is situation very well. His very ethical government. But I've got a challenge for him, Kojo.
SHERWOODWill you compete for a Skins?
LEGGETTI've got a challenge for him.
LEGGETTJust the other day I took the ALS challenge. I have not heard. I challenged Mr. Baker. I have not heard from my former student at Howard. I've waited and looking to see the video. I want to see it. I want to (unintelligible) on video. So I'm waiting for the time. We put this challenge out the other day. I was doused with a huge amount of water. So we're waiting.2
SHERWOODSo Ike Leggett is saying that he's all wet and he wants you to be, too.
BAKERWell, well, Dean Leggett, as he's known to many of us, I…
SHERWOODDon't be pressured into this.
BAKERI know. I feel like I'm back in school. I accept the challenge, although, you know, we did question whether there was actual ice in that bucket.
LEGGETTIt was ice. Yeah, I can attest to it. It hit me in the head. There was ice.
BAKERSo I am prepared to go to the Howard University Law School campus when I leave this show, Kojo and Tom, and get doused in what we -- what I'm sure is ice water. It's certainly for a great cause.
SHERWOODYou're going to do that today?
BAKERI'm going to do that today when I leave the show.
SHERWOODWhere? What time? I have to tell my desk, News Channel 4 will be there.
NNAMDIHe's going to the Howard University Law School campus just up the street from us here.
BAKERWhere I was taught by the county executive who was a great professor there and a real role model for us in school.
NNAMDIOh, enough of these compliments. But he will take…
SHERWOODWhat about -- while Mr. Leggett's on the phone…
LEGGETTWell, we heard this on Kojo's show now. We're going to see this thing.
SHERWOODMr. Leggett, would you like to have a nice, shiny domed stadium in Montgomery County?
BAKERSee, now you're going to be sorry you called in.
NNAMDIThey're not competing for that stadium, of course. The producer of this broadcast, Michael Martinez…
LEGGETTNo. But I do want to see the FBI headquarters go to Prince George's County.
LEGGETTThey're a wonderful district.
SHERWOODThis is not the Lobby Hour.
NNAMDIWell, Michael Martinez took the ice bucket challenge. He did very well. I dumped the ice on him. Some of it got on my clothing and I, therefore, think that I have also accepted and taken the challenge. So good luck to you when you do this.
LEGGETTAll right. Thanks a lot. Have a wonderful day.
NNAMDIHopefully Rushern Baker won't drown when he takes the challenge.
BAKERNo. That is good. Can I say, you know, one of the things that's great about the County Executive Leggett is this challenge and bringing awareness to this disease and how important it is. But even in my own personal life, one of the first people that's -- that talked about Alzheimer's and the need for research and money and any help he could lend to me was County Executive Leggett. So he's -- he means this and he's sincere about it. And I think him for it.
NNAMDIRushern Baker, thank you so much for joining us.
BAKERThank you for having me.
SHERWOODI feel sorry for Karl Racine who's coming up next. We've had to way too much nice conversation.
NNAMDIThat's true. Rushern Baker is the executive of Prince George's County. He's a Democrat, who is up for reelection in November. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter for NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Tom, let's talk about the business of endorsements in Washington, D.C. At-large D.C. Council hopeful Robert White got help standing out from some of his competitors, according to The City Paper, when he received endorsements from two council members.
NNAMDINow, a rival of his in this general election, Brian Hart, complains that he did not have a fair shot at those same endorsements because he singled out Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander, who has endorsed Robert White and at-large -- and Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie who he said, neither of those people ever met with me.
NNAMDIAnd in an election in which people are running as independents and receiving endorsements from Democratic members of the council, we have not had quite the situation much before...
SHERWOODWell, I've studied the election law in the District of Columbia. It has no segment on endorsements that I can find.
NNAMDII know, but I'm just talking about the principles of it, the ethnics of it.
SHERWOODWell, no, that's what I...
NNAMDIShouldn't you hear from everybody else before you run...
SHERWOODNo. That's what I'm talking about. You know, endorsements are made by people or organizations who want to support people running for office. If they want to appear like some of the unions do, they invite everybody to come in and fill out exhaustive questionnaires and then they endorse the person they were for anyway. And I don't mean to pick on unions. It's done by other groups.
SHERWOODI mean, you can go through the motions and then vet people or you can simply endorse people that you know you like and want on the council. And so, yes, it's bad for someone like Brian, the at-large candidate who's not very well known to have people who are well known to endorse other people in a very crowded race. But endorsements are things that people get or they earn, but they are not some kind of academic exercise where you go through ten different steps to get to the end of the road. It's just part of the rough and tumble of politics.
NNAMDIYes, but you did say it's something people get or they earn. How do we know that the individuals who have been endorsed have earned these endorsements and they're not just cronies?
SHERWOODWell, it's like LinkedIn. I could go on LinkedIn and endorse you on LinkedIn. And how do I really know, you know, enough about you to endorse you? It's just -- it's called the ebb and flow, the give and take, the back and forth of politics. And unless there's some untoward thing, money changing hands or promises made or deliveries given, then it's just politics. And that's what American politics are.
NNAMDIThe prosecution and defense have rested their cases in the McDonnell trial in Virginia. One assumes that after...
SHERWOOD(unintelligible) they were talking forever this morning.
NNAMDIWell, they're summarizing. After those are done I guess we can expect a verdict in this case sometime next week. Care to predict what it might be?
SHERWOODYou know, I don't like to predict either elections or jury verdicts. And I think I'm not a lawyer to know that but, you know, the prosecutors were pretty tough there in their closing arguments. They lasted a little over two hours. I was looking at some of the notes of what was being said. And the prosecutor, according to David Culver from the Post -- from Channel 4 News, says the prosecutor brought up the Rolex watch again. And McDonnell -- I told -- I thought it was fake anyway. And so the prosecutor said, well, how many people do you know that would pose seven times with a Rolex watch that he thought was fake?
SHERWOODAnd then Jeff Shapiro from Richmond Times-Dispatch said, Mr. Honesty lied to his staff according to the prosecutor. So I think it looks really bad for McDonnell's reputation.
NNAMDIWell, let's ask someone who is a defense attorney and who's...
SHERWOODWell, he's a lawyer. He's not going to make a comment on it.
NNAMDI...and who's running for a job in which he might be a prosecutor. He joins us in studio. Karl Racine is the -- is a Democratic candidate for attorney general of the District of Columbia. If you have questions or comments for Karl Racine, call at 800-433-8850. Send email to email@example.com. You are a very successful defense lawyer. Thank you for joining us.
MR. KARL RACINEThank you very much, Kojo. It's a great pleasure to meet you.
NNAMDINice meeting you also.
SHERWOODOh, this politeness is just making me...
NNAMDIHe came here at the age of 3 and he's never met me, which could count against him in the election but we don't know. What do you think is going to be the verdict in the McDonnell trial from your own expertise?
RACINEWell, I'd like to publicly declare, for the first time, that I agree completely with Mr. Sherwood. Predictions in politics and in court cases, not a good business, not a business I want to be in.
SHERWOODBut it is -- you know, the case here is kind of a strained -- Mr. McDonnell, the former governor, keeps saying, I never did anything for him. I never did anything. Took -- yeah, well, he probably was wrong to take some of these gifts but the law is loose in Virginia. I never asked -- he never asked me for anything. But the law is more -- is different. Johnny Williams, the man involved (unintelligible) , never asked for anything. But all of his actions suggested he wanted favors. So is it -- it seems to me that McDonnell was trying to confuse the jury by saying, I didn't ask for anything.
RACINEWell, Tom, yeah, my observation is that in my life experience in the criminal law, I can tell you that proving intent is very difficult. Reasonable doubt is the cornerstone, of course, of our criminal justice system. It is indeed -- what the government must do is prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Getting into someone's head, persuading the jury that a defendant absolutely knew that they had criminal intent is very difficult. And I will note that the lawyers certainly, in the governor's case, are excellent. So I think that's about as far as I should go.
NNAMDIAnd I'm saying there's going to be some reasonable doubt in the heads of a few of those jurors.
SHERWOODWell, you think -- so you think he's not going to be -- he's going to...
NNAMDII think there's a good chance that he will not be convicted.
SHERWOODOh, a good chance. That's not...
NNAMDIOnto the district race here, you are a partner at a big law firm here in the district and you want to give that up for an opportunity to be the district's top attorney, a public position. Why do you want this job? What makes you believe that your experiences as a defense attorney have prepared you for it?
RACINESure. Thanks for the question. The way I look at it for the first -- first of all, is that I'm not giving anything up. I'd be getting the opportunity to serve the city in a much greater way than I've been doing for the last several years, notwithstanding the fact, of course, that every day in every way I'm active in this city.
RACINEWhy am I interested in the job? I think I'm mostly interested, Kojo, for three reasons. First, there is no doubt that we are at a critical juncture in our city's history. It's a time of great opportunity, as well as a time of great challenge. In times of opportunity and challenge, history shows that what leadership require is indeed honesty, integrity, experience, judgment and a sense of fairness. I believe that I have those attributes and I believe that the citizens of the District of Columbia deserve, merit and will hire and attorney general who has those attributes.
NNAMDIYou once did a stent in the district's public defender service. And in a 2010 interview with the Washington Post, according to City Paper, you said, quoting here, "I do question the notion of being focused primarily on commercialism instead of doing good works for people." You mentioned that in the context of saying that staying with a large law firm is potentially your biggest regret. Is that what you're seeking to change now?
RACINEKojo, I appreciate your doing your research, and that was in fact my comment. And that comment is a comment that I, you know, frankly throw around in my mind, I think about every day. And that is, am I using my precious time and my gifts to the best -- to my best abilities for the greater goal -- greater good? Yes. I want to spend all of my waking hours not focused on anything other than my brother, my sister, my neighbor in the District of Columbia.
SHERWOODYou say we're at a critical juncture. Is that because this is the first election in the district of Columbia for an attorney general, someone who will have great power, who will oversee a very large office of 300 lawyers roughly speaking?
SHERWOODAre we at a critical juncture because of what the swirl of unethical conduct that has been around so many of our elected leaders and other officials? I mean, what is the critical juncture?
RACINEI think you've hit it right there. And I need not explain them any further. First, yeah, when I go around town, Kojo, no matter where I am in the District of Columbia, and Tom, you know this better than most, what you hear is -- are real questions about honesty, integrity and indeed the purpose for which public servants serve and run for office. I want to at least do my part and demonstrate that public service is indeed a privilege. And it's a privilege that's fundamentally directed to the good of the people.
SHERWOODThere are five candidates -- I think there are five candidates, Paul Zukerberg who, without him, we would not had this election because he fought to have it. Edward Smith, Smitty Smith, as he likes to call himself, you, Lorie Masters and Lateefah Williams. Do you know any of your opponents?
RACINEI do. I know Ms. Masters...
SHERWOODWould you like to run them down or say something nice about them?
SHERWOODI mean, why are you over them? They have interesting various -- all of them have different backgrounds as lawyers who all appear to be good people, as far as we know so far.
RACINEWell, I'm not going to run them down. I'll let them run me down. If you look hard you'll see some of that nonsense out there. Here's what the city needs again. It needs proven independent, tested leadership who actually has produced results. And I think that if you compare my background, my history, my reputation -- and I ask people to go around and check my reputation as well as the reputation of my opponents -- what you'll find is that people have great confidence in the judgment that I've...
SHERWOODI didn't realize until this morning that, you know, Montgomery County school board, you know, with all the credit cards when they decided they could buy what they want, when they want with a credit card, the task force that led to them giving up the credit cards was run by Karl Racine. How did you get out in Montgomery County?
RACINEWell, I think that's where hopefully reputation travels. Montgomery County -- the school board, they're made up of good people. They got themselves in this situation where, you know, frankly the policies were ambiguous. There wasn't, you know, adequate training and follow-through with those kinds of things.
SHERWOODWell, that's how crooks behave. They love places where there aren't good guidelines and fuzziness. That's what they do.
RACINEWell, mistakes happen. And sometimes mistakes happen not because people are trying to steal money. It's because they've gotten themselves into a practice of lack of diligence. At any rate, they entrusted me with their matter at the board. The board asked me to interview, investigate and make recommendations. And I told the board that based on our investigation, they needed to tear up their credit cards.
SHERWOODSo you'll make ethics even though you're not the ethics board but your ethics will be a huge part of being the attorney general if you're elected?
RACINEPublic service starts and ends with ethics, integrity and honesty.
NNAMDIFrom everything that I have read and heard, you are a fairly entrenched part of the Washington legal establishment. Harry Jaffe (sp?) writing in the Washingtonian that the current appointed attorney general Irvin Nathan apparently had conversations with members of his staff about supporting you before you even declared for office. Did you request the support of the attorney general? Did you have a conversation with him about this before you ran? What is the nature of your relationship with him?
RACINEWell, first, certainly as a member of the bar I respect Irv Nathan. He's an exceptional lawyer. That doesn't mean that I agree with every position that he's taken. I've been in his office and sometimes come out a winner, sometimes a loser. No, Irv Nathan did not recruit me to run for the attorney generalship.
SHERWOODWere you even aware that he had had this staff meeting where he's -- he says -- and I tried to reach him this morning, was unable to. He's responded to the Washingtonian and others, that he spoke highly of you but did not endorse you. Nor did he urge the members of the office to campaign for you. It doesn't sound like something Irv Nathan would do but, of course, I wasn't there. But some of the lawyers who were there, at least three people who were there told the Washingtonian that he pretty much endorsed you. Would you be surprised if he did that?
RACINEI think Irv Nathan is a man who conducts himself appropriately, ethically. And I would have no reason to believe, nor would I believe that Irv Nathan would conduct himself in any other way.
SHERWOODLet's go back to policy -- unless we have...
NNAMDIWe have a bunch of callers but hurry up and ask the question.
SHERWOODOkay. Well, the campaign, five people are running for attorney general of the city but they've got this fast mayor's race. Have you endorsed in the mayor's race?
RACINEI have not endorsed...
SHERWOODI know you're from Ward 4 and Muriel Bowser likes you and I haven't heard David Catania say anything about you yet or Carol Schwartz. But is that going to -- how are you going to do that? There's going to be -- marijuana's on the ballot. Are you for or against the marijuana initiative to legalize marijuana?
RACINEFor decriminalization legalization I think is going to take a bit more time for the community to get its head around. You're talking about important issues...
SHERWOODYou agree with Carol Schwartz there are too many stoned people in the streets? That's what she said.
NNAMDIIgnore Tom. John in Washington, D.C., you're on the air John. Go ahead, please. John? John, you've been waiting so patiently. You seem to have left. John, are you there?
JOHNNo, I'm here.
NNAMDIGo right ahead.
JOHNYes, sir. You were closely aligned with the most anti-union trade group in the construction industry, the Association of Building and Contractors ABC. The ABC is a front group for nonunion contractors. Not only is your law firm their general counsel, but you have also personally praised them -- your law firm's press releases. How do you plan to fairly enforce construction and wage laws given your direct ties to the groups such as these?
RACINEThank you for your question, caller. Here's the deal. I'm -- as attorney general my job is to represent the citizens of the District of Columbia., everybody who lives here and works here. And I will be fair. If you want to talk about my labor and union bonafides, I would ask it again, check out my reputation. Feel free to give Bill Lucy a call and ask Bill Lucy whether he believes Karl Racine has the experience and judgment to make fair decisions for all people.
NNAMDIBill Lucy, the longtime leader of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees and the founder and leader of what used to be known as the Coalition of Black Trade Unions.
NNAMDIIt shows I'm old, that's...
SHERWOODYeah, that's true, with a good memory. Venable is the name of the law firm. Was the ABC, the builders and contractors your client or your company -- your firm's client?
RACINEAs I understand it's a client of the firm's. And no, I don't believe I've ever personally worked on a matter that, you know, the ABC hired the firm for.
NNAMDIHere is Danielle in Washington, D.C. Danielle, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DANIELLEHi. Thank you for taking my call. You know, I really haven't heard any specifics from Mr. Racine about what he'd like to change as the attorney general. And I'm really, like, very curious as to what specific changes you would like to make. And what is the current attorney general doing wrong that you think you might be able to do differently?
RACINEThank you very much for your question. I think the first job of this next attorney general is to stand up in office that's independent of the city council and independent of the mayor. That in and of itself will be a significant change and a challenge. The second job of the attorney general of the District of Columbia will be to set the tone for honest and fair and responsive government. That's what I will do.
RACINEThe third priority of the attorney general under my leadership is going to be to make sure that we reach out to our community, seniors, kids, other interested parties, small business, unions just to let them know that they have a place at the table and that the attorney general is going to apply the law equally to everyone.
NNAMDICan I ask a specific, because the attorney general is fighting a legal battle right now over the city's gun laws. He asked a federal judge to reconsider an opinion issued earlier this summer that declared the city's ban on carrying handguns in public unconstitutional. What approach do you think the city should be taking in the wake of this ruling?
RACINESure. These are examples of the complex questions that the city now faces. With respect to the gun ruling, I think the council and the mayor and the attorney general right now, as reported, are doing it the right way, which is they're working together collaboratively to devise a strategy that will ensure the safety of our citizens, even as we comply with the Supreme Court law that clearly is running in the direction of allowing handguns in the community.
SHERWOODThe council tried and didn't run this year around the mayor to get -- to declare that the city budget doesn't need congressional review. They kind of lost that on court. Do you have...
NNAMDIAnother complicated specific. (laugh)
SHERWOODDo you have -- without getting into the weeds of that, do you have any sense that the council's on the right track or do you agree with Mr. Nathan, the attorney general, that the council was trying to run around congress?
RACINEWell, I think it's clear that Attorney General Nathan, the council and indeed the mayor have the same goal, same as D.C. vote and other terrific advocacy groups, and that is to bring statehood to the District of Columbia. The manner in which this litigation was pursued, in my opinion, was regrettable. You know, Judge Emmet Sullivan, federal district court, Washington, D.C., his opinion, you know, is -- should be read by every single person here.
SHERWOODAnd thank you for bringing "Dream City" with you today, but it didn't affect any of my questions.
RACINEI see. (laugh)
NNAMDI"Dream City" of course is the book that Tom Sherwood and Harry Jaffe wrote about the former mayor of the District of Columbia who shall remain nameless. Karl Racine is a Democratic candidate for attorney general of the District of Columbia. Thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to you.
RACINEThank you very much, Kojo. Thank you, Tom.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter for NBC 4 and a columnist for the current newspapers. Any big Labor Day plans, Tom?
SHERWOODNo, but I would wish everyone a happy Labor Day. And we should respect the fact that people labor in this country.
NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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