After emerging from the June Democratic primary by the narrowest of margins, former state Del. John A. “Johnny O” Olszewski Jr. (D) has opened up a substantial lead in the race for Baltimore County executive, according to a 3-week-old Democratic poll obtained by Maryland Matters Thursday.
The survey, conducted Sept. 6-11 by the Global Strategy Group, showed Olszewski with 53 percent and State Insurance Commissioner Alfred W. Redmer Jr. (R) with 34 percent.
Thirteen percent of the voters were undecided.
The poll of 400 likely voters had a 4.9-point margin of error.
Olszewski and Redmer are competing for an open seat. Democrat Don Mohler, who replaced the late county executive Kevin B. Kamenetz (D) on an interim basis, will leave office in early December.
According to the polling memo, Olszewski’s popularity with the voters is enough to withstand Republican attacks. The pollsters tested a number of messages that the GOP is likely to use against Olszewski – or is already using – and found only minor movement in Redmer’s direction.
Voters were given a strong negative that suggested Olszewski is a tax-and-spend liberal who will support Democratic gubernatorial nominee Benjamin T. Jealous over Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), who is very popular in Baltimore County. The pollsters also tested attack lines against Olszewski on housing, immigration, taxes and other issues.
Even when all the attacks were laid out, Olszewski led Redmer 51 percent to 43 percent, according to the Global Strategy Group survey.
Redmer has in fact begun airing a TV ad this week with those very attack lines.
“You wouldn’t vote for Ben Jealous, right? So why vote for Johnny O?” a narrator asks at the beginning of the ad. “Like Jealous, Johnny’s a big spending taxer.”
The ad also claims Olszewski voted for 56 tax increases while he served in the legislature and that he enthusiastically supported former Gov. Martin J. O’Malley’s agenda.
In the ad, Redmer plays up his ties to Hogan – as he has throughout the campaign.
In the Democratic poll, Olszewski was viewed favorably by 43 percent of voters compared to 18 percent who viewed him unfavorably. He led among key demographic groups – including voters of different ages, genders, races, and education levels. Olszewski led Redmer among self-proclaimed moderates, 58 percent to 22 percent, and in the traditionally more conservative southeast portion of Baltimore County, which he previously represented in Annapolis. There, he led 49 percent to 35 percent (the polling memo did not provide an error margin for the smaller subsets of voters).
“Despite a strong starting position, 13% of voters remain undecided and a full 39% are still unfamiliar with Johnny – many of whom are younger, independent, and African-American – demographic groups likely to be receptive to his candidacy,” Global Strategy Group wrote.
The polling firm concluded that Olszewski “is in a strong place to win the general.”
After seeing the Maryland Matters account of the poll Friday morning, the Redmer campaign hit back.
“In a desperate attempt to generate a decent headline and reinvigorate their dried up donor base the Olszewski campaign released a month old poll that is in no way accurate at the present time,” said Hannah Marr, a Redmer spokeswoman. “We’ve beaten Olszewski to mail and TV, and our polling shows we have successfully closed the gap in just a few weeks.” Marr said the Republican’s campaign sees evidence that Baltimore County voters “are rejecting the dangerous Jealous/Olzsewski agenda.”