- Associated Press - Thursday, June 7, 2018

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - A county executive running against eight other candidates in the Democratic gubernatorial primary received the endorsement of former Gov. Martin O’Malley on Thursday.

O’Malley, a two-term governor who served from 2007 to 2015, said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker has the integrity needed to be governor and the ability to bring people together.

“I truly believe that the candidate that is best able to restore Maryland’s leadership in public education and make our children winners in a changing economy is Rushern Baker,” O’Malley said in front of the statehouse in Annapolis.

The former governor made the endorsement as Baker rolled out a 10-point plan to improve education in the state, including a proposal to increase access to full-day pre-kindergarten.

Baker said education would be his top priority, if elected.

“It is the reason that I decided to run for office in the first place,” said Baker, who has held the job of Prince George’s County executive since 2010.

Baker is running against eight other candidates. He has received previous endorsements from statewide elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Attorney General Brian Frosh.

Democrats in the race have criticized Republican Gov. Larry Hogan on education, citing the state’s drop from a top rating in a 50-state ranking by a national education publication that Maryland held when O’Malley was governor.

The Hogan campaign says the governor has made record investments in education. Hogan defeated former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, a Democrat, in 2014, largely by criticizing O’Malley’s policies, particularly tax increases.

Scott Sloofman, a spokesman for Hogan’s campaign, panned the endorsement.

“Martin O’Malley might be endorsing Rushern Baker today, but the fact is, any of these candidates running represent a third O’Malley term in office,” Sloofman said. “Pretty sure Marylanders overwhelmingly do not want to head in that direction.”

The primary is June 26.

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