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Government & Politics

New Era Dawns for Baltimore County With Johnny O Victory

Baltimore County Executive-elect John A. Olszewski Jr. (D) greeting voters at Stoneleigh Elementary School Tuesday night. Photo by William F. Zorzi

Democrat John A. “Johnny O” Olszewski Jr. roundly defeated Alfred W. Redmer Jr. in the race for Baltimore County executive Tuesday, capturing 57 percent of the more than 300,000 votes cast.

The overwhelming win by Olszewski, 36, a former state legislator and public school teacher, demonstrated that GOP Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s re-election win – which depended on high numbers in Baltimore County — offered absolutely no coattails to Redmer, a fellow Republican he had endorsed in the primary.

With 100 percent of the county’s 236 precincts reporting, Olszewski led Redmer 174,771 to 129,427, or 57.4 percent to 42.5 percent. Write-in candidates accounted for 417 votes, or 0.1 percent.

By comparison, Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford took 61.7 percent of the Baltimore County vote.

Olszewski declared victory just before 11 p.m. in front of a crowd of cheering supporters, friends and family members gathered at the Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel in Towson.

He urged them to continue to call him “Johnny O” because, he said, “that’s the spirit of leadership I’m going to bring to Baltimore County – one that views each of you as partners in our work ahead, one based on collaboration, on teamwork and trust.”

“We are just getting started,” he said. “We will not accomplish everything overnight … but know, if we don’t set a bold vision for the future today, we’ll never get there. And together, we set that vision.

“So, tonight we celebrate, and tomorrow we get started,” he said. “Thank you. God bless.”

Redmer, 62, the Maryland insurance commissioner and a former member of the House of Delegates, conceded the race at about 10:30 p.m. at the Columbus Gardens catering hall, on Belair Road in Nottingham.

Redmer thanked his family, his campaign staff, volunteers and the groups that endorsed his candidacy. He also made a point of thanking Hogan’s campaign staff for their assistance in the race.

“It is an experience that I will never forget,” he said. “Thank you.”

Clearly fighting the emotion of the moment, Redmer ended his brief concession speech on a light note.

“The bar’s still open,” he said. “I’ll race you to the bar.”

He is expected to continue in his position as Maryland insurance commissioner in the Hogan administration.

The Maryland Democratic Party issued a statement after the Olszewski win.

“County Executive-elect Johnny Olszewski, Jr. ran an authentic, values-driven campaign, which captured the hearts and minds of Baltimore County residents,” said Kathleen A. Matthews, the state party chairwoman. “Voters are hungry for leaders with integrity and the courage to lead, and that is exactly what they get in Johnny O, as he leads Baltimore County families toward a brighter future.”

As Olszewski he delivered his victory speech Tuesday night, behind him stood Baltimore County Councilwoman Vicki L. Almond, one of three candidates who ran against him for executive in the Democratic primary June 26.

In that race, Olszewski barely edged out state Sen. James Brochin, winning the Democratic nomination by 17 votes, in a recount. Almond ran third.

Olszewski, however, benefitted in his race against Redmer from a so-called “super PAC” – Baltimore County Votes PAC — set up by county Democratic activists to aid Almond in her primary run. That political action committee, an independent expenditure campaign account, was largely underwritten for her bid by contributions from big-money Baltimore County developers.

Following Brochin’s lead in the primary, Olszewski criticized Almond for her coziness with developers.

Unlike traditional political action committees, Super PACs may accept unlimited contributions from corporations and individuals, but those entities are considered “independent expenditure” committees, meaning their activities cannot be coordinated with any candidate’s campaign.

Union groups supporting Olszewski over Redmer used the Baltimore County Votes super PAC to dump $135,000 into the race in the last weeks of the general election campaign, Maryland State Board of Elections records show.

That money was then used to pay for a variety of campaign services for the Olszewski effort, including online advertising, graphic design and printing, election board records show.

On Sept. 28, the Baltimore-Washington Construction & Public Employee Laborers PAC transferred $50,000 to the Baltimore County Votes PAC to help Olszewski. On Oct. 9, the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) Fund for Children and Public Education PAC moved $40,000 to the PAC, the records show.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (Active Ballot Club) sent $25,000 into the super PAC account on Oct. 10. A week later, on Oct. 17, the Maryland-D.C. Council of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) transferred $20,000 to the Baltimore County Votes PAC, records show.

Tucker J. Cavanagh, Olszewski’s campaign manager, is the son of Terrence J. Cavanagh, executive director of the SEIU’s state council.

On Election Day, both Olszewski and Redmer criss-crossed the county, greeting voters at polling places, answering questions of potential last-minute supporters and taking the temperature of the electorate. Throughout the day, the candidates seemed enthusiastic about what they were seeing at the polls.

Redmer began the day at 6:30 a.m. in Middle River at the Martin Boulevard Elementary School. He moved counter-clockwise around the county, stopping in Perry Hall, Cockeysville, Pikesville, Gwynn Oak and Halethorpe before ending up back on the east side, this time at Berkshire Elementary School in Dundalk around 4 p.m.

At the Berkshire Elementary School, 7421 Poplar Ave., south of North Point Road in Dundalk, a steady stream of voters braved the mid-afternoon rain to get to the polling place for two Southeast Baltimore County precincts.

Lynne M. Mitchell and Nora C. Baublitz, both shrouded in hooded, red (naturally) rain ponchos, tag-teamed voters with GOP campaign literature, Hogan’s and Redmer’s names figuring prominently.

Both Mitchell and Baublitz had Redmer stickers on their ponchos and both had heard the candidate was supposed to drop by on his way around the county.

“We need Al Redmer,” said Mitchell, president of the Eastwood Residents & Business Community Association of Baltimore County (ERBABC for short). “We drove Al through every neighborhood in Dundalk and Essex and showed him how we’ve been left behind.”

Trash, crime, rental housing code enforcement – and rats.

“You don’t see these conditions in Towson, Hunt Valley, White Marsh and Perry Hall, she said. “Al has promised to help us.”

Baublitz, president of the Berkshire Community Association, agreed, saying that was one of the reasons she got involved in neighborhood matters a few years ago.

A single Olszewski supporter worked the polling place, handing out literature, but declined to answer questions.

As Redmer arrived, he was greeted by the small crowed of pollworkers, Mitchell and Baublitz among them.

Redmer said that wherever he had gone in the county Tuesday that the reception had been “very positive.”

“My objective every day is to be eternally optimistic — without being delusional,” Redmer said, laughing.

“We’re going to work very hard until the very end,” he said.

But in the very end, it was not enough.

 Olszewski started off at Dundalk High School in Southeast Baltimore County and was the first voter in his home precinct when the polls opened at 7 a.m.

He zig-zagged across the county, moving northwest to Pikesville and then down the west side to Randallstown, Woodlawn, Catonsville. He then moved to the east side, first to Martin Boulevard Elementary School in Middle River — where Redmer started his day — then up to Rosedale and west to Parkville, before winding up in the center of the county, Stoneleigh, south of Towson.

By the time Olszewski arrived at Stoneleigh Elementary School, 900 Pemberton Rd., about 6 p.m., it was dark, though voters continued to steadily stream to the polls.

As he was dropped off from the passenger side of a pickup truck, he was greeted warmly by one of his top supporters, Del. Stephen W. Lafferty, who handily won reelection Tuesday in District 42A.

“We’ve seen so much energy and enthusiasm wherever we went today,” said Olszewski, an orange O’s baseball cap on his head.

Pollworkers who had been at the school since 6:30 a.m. – many of whom were wearing red Lafferty T-shirts — said they had seen no evidence of Redmer supporters there all day.

Girl Scouts were out in force at both of the candidates’ final campaign stops, hawking cookies.

Outside the Berkshire school, a pair cornered Redmer, who reached into his wallet to buy a couple of boxes for the cause. Olszewski was a little luckier and managed to maneuver past an extremely energetic group of cookie sellers at a table set up in front of Stoneleigh Elementary School.

Olszewski, a former public-school teacher who holds a PhD, resides in Dundalk with wife Marisa Olszewski and their young daughter, Daria. He is a former 8½-year member of the Maryland House of Delegates representing District 6 in Eastern Baltimore County.

Olszewski will be sworn in Dec. 3, replacing interim County Executive Donald I. Mohler III (D), who was elected unanimously to the post by the Baltimore County Council, following the death of County Executive Kevin B. Kamenetz (D) in May.

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New Era Dawns for Baltimore County With Johnny O Victory