By Hamil R. Harris, Special to the AFRO
The sanctuary of Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Fort Washington, Maryland, was filled with as the four top candidates for County Executive participated in a debate that took place exactly two weeks before the June 26th Democratic primary.
The debate was sponsored by Howard University radio (WHUR) and moderated by Harold Fisher, host of WHUR’s nightly show the Daily Drum. The forum featured State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, former congresswoman Donna Edwards, former White House appointee Paul Monteiro and Maryland State Senator C. Anthony Muse.
Candidates for Prince George’s County Executive at the debate at Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington, Maryland.
The candidates spent most of their time answering questions verses debating each other in the areas of education, crime, economic development, housing and quality of life. But much of the excitement came from those seated in the pews in which the largest contingent were supporters for Alsobrooks dressed in lime green shirts and those for Muse wearing white shirts trimmed in red.
The Reverend Grainger Browing, senior pastor of Ebenezer, said that he was glad that the debate took place at his church for two reasons.
“First of all the church has always been the place for our political empowerment” Browning said. “Secondly I am glad that we are partnering with Black radio. Sadly Black radio has been taken off the air and spaces like WHUR are vital.”
When Alsobrooks was asked how she would protect the children in the the wake of the school system scandal, she said the county needed to “better screen the people we hire,” and there must be a more “ aggressive,” effort to root out personnel involved in incidents.
Monteiro said more needs to be done.
“We need more accountability…how do you get a system with 900 teachers on (sick) leave,” he said.
Muse said transparency is key. “We have to be honest. We can’t sweep (problems) under the rug,” Muse told the crowd. “We hide the problem we don’t deal with the problem.”
The most heated part of the forum came after several people asked Edwards about a Super PAC that has been challenging Alsobrooks for accepting money from developers. Alsobrooks held up campaign material that she said just isn’t true. She said she has not done anything wrong and that she will talk with anyone for the good of the County, but in terms of National Harbor she said “ I didn’t have anything to do with the construction of MGM.”
“I have delivered results for P.G. County. I have a record unblemished.”
Edwards challenged the moderator after someone challenged her over the Super Pac material, but she didn’t get a chance to respond. “He is challenging my integrity and I should be able to respond.”
After Alsobrooks shared her achievements in an effort to defend her ethics, other candidates also shared their career records.
Monteiro touted his record at the White House, running AmeriCorp and being Chief of Staff at Howard University. Muse said there are 16 thousand bills in Annapolis that has his name on them. Edwards said during her years in Congress she fought for people across the country, but she also had to answer several questions from people about why she and her staff didn’t return constituent telephone calls.
Ebenezer Co-Pastor Joanne Browning, closed out the event in a prayer where she thanked God for “this divine moment,” that was made possible by those who “suffered, bled and died,” for African Americans to gain the right to vote.
Edwards left shortly after the event but in interviews with the AFRO, Monteiro, Muse and Alsobrooks spoke optimistically about the efforts going into the homestretch of the campaign.
Monteiro said, “From the beginning we have focused on people who don’t vote and they don’t vote because they don’t see an alternative that they want.”
Muse said, “It’s about having the experience of bringing this county together. I have authored 300 bills. I know the players I have been there.”
Alsobrooks told the AFRO, “We are ending the persuasion part of the campaign and we have two weeks to get our voters. What’s important is that at the end of this campaign people engage in this election.”