Upper Marlboro resident Jesse Peed, 57, is no stranger to politics. His family has deep democratic roots in Prince George’s County as his grandmother, Elsie Peed, was a lifelong Democrat and polling judge in Maryland.
“She actually registered me to vote. When I checked Republican, she kinda freaked,” smiled Peed, who recently announced he is running for a second time for the District 27 senate seat held by Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, Jr. (D).
The conservative Republican bug had bitten Peed when he was a student at Gwynn Park High School working on California Governor Ronald Reagan’s first campaign run for president in 1975 — a race that would end in a Republican primary defeat to President Gerald Ford. Ford would go on to lose to Democrat Jimmy Carter.
In the years since, Peed has worked on multiple Republican presidential and gubernatorial campaigns to include Gov. Larry Hogan, Mitt Romney, Sen. John McCain and President Donald Trump.
“He wasn’t my first choice, he wasn’t my second choice, he wasn’t my third choice,” laughed Peed, a Ted Cruz supporter. “Sometimes you have lemons and you have to put up with what you got.”
Despite his feelings, Peed is supportive of Trump.
“I was in the United States Army; I believe you support every president you have,” said Peed, acknowledging he also supported Democratic President Barack Obama even though he did not vote for him. He cast his vote for Sen. John McCain, because his ideology aligned more closely with that of running mate Sarah Palin.
Peed, who was elected to represent District 27 on the Prince George’s County Republican Central Committee, said that his tiring of the state legislature raising taxes was the impetus for him to run for senator in 2014. Many of his family and friends are leaving the state because they cannot afford the taxes, he said.
“This is my state — I love it. I want to stay here,” Peed said. But he also understands why one of his close friends, who recently retired, moved from Upper Marlboro — where he was paying nearly $5,000 a year in taxes for a quarter acre of land — to South Carolina, where he now pays only $850 a year for a bigger house on six acres.
Peed believes Democrats — with their nearly 100 years of ruling both the Senate and the House of Delegates — are responsible for Maryland’s high taxes.
“I’m at the point now, the only thing I work for is to pay taxes and to survive,” said Peed, who is a swimming pool mechanic. He has operated a small pool servicing business with his wife, Kathryn, for the last 30 years. “And I work hard.”
Still frustrated with taxes, Peed filed his candidacy for 2018. Last go ‘round, Peed got a little more than 37 percent of the votes to Miller — besting all of the incumbent’s foes from the prior two election cycles.
In Charles County, Peed fell short of Miller by grabbing only 40 percent of the vote. Miller garnered 87 percent of the vote in Prince George’s County, which is no surprise as Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 10 to one (454,428 vs. 43,135) of eligible voters in the county. However, Peed did win Calvert County with 50 percent of the vote, edging Miller out by two percentage points.
“Beating him in Calvert was kind of a big thing,” said Peed, adding that he jumped into the race right before the primary and only raised $4,200. “He’d never been beaten in any county.”
Not dissuaded by the loss, Peed sees his win in Calvert last election as a sign the tide is turning in his favor. This time he has a plan Peed thinks will give him the advantage over his formidable opponent.
“Call, call, call, knock, knock, knock,” said Peed, of his strategy that also includes phone banking, social media, mailers and internet ads. “Get the apathy from the Republicans that won’t show up.”
Peed has to overcome at least one hurdle before going against Miller in the 2018 general election: primary contender Roussan Etienne (R).
The two have much in common. Both are small business owners, serve on the same central committee and have ties to Baden — a small Southern Maryland town where Peed grew up before moving to Upper Marlboro in adulthood. Peed politely admits to not knowing much about his opponent, instead highlighting his own strengths in response to a question about why he believes he is the better candidate.
“I understand business — I’ve done that forever. I also understand my state quite well because I’ve been here forever,” said Peed, referring to his family’s participation in Maryland politics.
If elected to the senate, one of Peed’s top priorities would be getting term limits for all elected officials in the statehouse. Believing that people can do their job and leave in two terms, he prefers an eight-year limit, but would settle for a 12-year cap. If elected, Peed vows to step down after two terms.
“I’m tired of people like Mike Miller being in the legislature for 46 years,” stressed Peed. “He was in the House of Delegates for four [years]. He’s been in the state senate for 42. He’s been the [senate] president for 30. He’s considered the most powerful man in Maryland politics.”
“Nothing goes through the legislature or the senate in Maryland that does not touch Mike Miller’s desk,” said Peed, attributing Miller’s power directly to the length of his tenure in Annapolis.
Another priority for Peed is increasing the number of jobs and improving the economy by lowering taxes and cutting spending. A third focus will be on ensuring the government actually spends taxpayers’ dollars on what it is suppose to. He likens some government spending to people going to the grocery store to pick up groceries and coming home with clothes instead.
The former U.S. Army cartographic draftsman and father of four adult children has a long list of things he’d like to fix in Annapolis and looks forward to the opportunity to support Hogan and furthering the Republican agenda in the statehouse — but admits that on at least one issue, he has to part ways with the party.
“I am not really a fan of capital punishment. I don’t like hurting or killing things,” said Peed, who was active duty military 1978-81 and in the U.S. Reserves from 1981-87, at which time there was no conflict. “[But] I would have gone if I was called.”