Friday, September 08, 2006

Cutting and Running in Prince George's

I knew that Jack Johnson's campaign was in deep trouble when I heard he was endorsed by Jesse Jackson. I'd take the endorsement of Prince George's State's Attorney Glenn Ivey, who endorsed Johnson opponent Rushern Baker today, over Jackson's any day. Jackson may be popular with African Americans on a national scale but he is the grim reaper of politics when it comes to endorsements in local campaigns. Voters generally resent his swooping in to interfere in local campaigns about which he knows nothing. When a scared candidate calls in the good reverend for a last-minute endorsement, you can stick a fork in him. He's done.

(Before all of you eagle-eye watchers point out Ned Lamont in Connecticut was endorsed by Jackson, all I can say is wait. He's still got the general election. Oddly enough, Joe Lieberman in 1988 was one of the few candidates I know who managed to avoid the Jackson jinx.)

Johnson, however, managed to turn Jackson's endorsement from a dignified moment of support from a black elder statesmen to a farce on a grand scale. According to the Washington Post, Johnson has prissily refused to debate his opponent, former Del. Rushern Baker:

Johnson had said he would not debate Baker until he apologizes for ads he considers misleading. And he demanded that Baker explain what work he did to deserve $243,000 in county contracts during Curry's administration. Baker has said he served as legal counsel to the county's redevelopment authority.
When Baker heard about Jackson's endorsement, he decided to race to the scene and surprise Johnson by demanding a debate. Johnson was clearly shocked and the type of scene that reporters and bloggers dream about ensued:

But as Jackson spoke, former county executive Wayne K. Curry (D), one of those who this week endorsed Baker, and then Baker himself arrived and pushed to the front of the crowd. As the news conference ended, Baker surged forward to shake Jackson's hand and then edged toward Johnson. "Jack!" he called out.

Surrounded by aides and supporters, Johnson quickly turned and walked away, crossing an open walkway of the shopping center and retreating into a nearby restaurant while Baker's supporters shouted after him. "You can run, but you can't hide!" they yelled.

. . . .

Followed by reporters, Baker pursued Johnson and Jackson into Gladys Knight & Ron Winans Chicken & Waffles as they made their way to a long table for lunch. At one point, a security guard blocked Baker. Stymied at the entrance, Baker whirled to face the cameras.

"I think the people of Prince George's County deserve to see us meet face-to-face," he said. "That's why we came here at least quietly and politely to ask him to come out here and we'll talk about it."

You read right. Johnson fled into a chicken and waffle house. I'm still waiting for the YouTube but you can watch an NBC4 Report with some footage (you need to click on "Watch This Report" to see the video).