Johnny O to Seek Re-election, Will Skip Gubernatorial Race

Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr. announced in a video and letter to supporters Thursday that he plans to seek re-election, forgoing the increasingly crowded Democratic gubernatorial primary. Screenshot.

Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr., who had contemplated joining the Democratic primary for governor in 2022, announced Thursday morning that he plans to seek re-election instead.

Olszewski was poised to be a leading contender in the statewide Democratic scrum, but said in an email to supporters that he wants to take advantage of “a once in a generation opportunity to use this time of Covid recovery not just to get back to where we were before, but to imagine and aspire towards where we always should have been.”

“It’s an opportunity we should seize — and that requires a continued, sustained focus on the work in front of us,” Olszewski wrote.

The 38-year-old county leader said his first term in office has “proven that big, transformative change is possible.”

“When I ran to become Baltimore County Executive, I laid out a bold vision for what building a better Baltimore County looked like,” Olszewski wrote. “In just a few years, we are delivering on that promise in a big way. We are making historic investments in our schools and leading a government that is more open, accessible and connected than ever before. Sustainability and equity have become a part of our culture, values embedded as a critical lens through which we view every decision. And we are consistently touted as a statewide and national leader on our response to the worst global health crisis of our time.”

Olszewski advisers said the county executive took a long hard look at running for governor next year, and he has amped up his fundraising and statewide outreach in recent months. His deliberations were taken seriously enough that two Democratic members of the Baltimore County Council, Julian E. Jones Jr., the current chairman, and Israel C. “Izzy” Patoka, said they would become candidates to replace him.

But Olszewski, who won the Democratic primary by just 17 votes in 2018 and then had a comfortable victory in the general election, is the odds-on favorite for a second term. He is unlikely to face significant opposition in the Democratic primary next year, and no Republican has come forward to run against him. A Republican was last elected Baltimore County executive in 1990.

“I love this job and this county,” Olszewski wrote to supporters. “After winning an election by 17 votes on my journey here, I haven’t taken a single day for granted. You deserve that, your family deserves that and this moment demands that. I look forward to continuing our work together in Baltimore County and to joining you on the campaign trail again soon.”

Even with Olszewski’s departure from the race, the Democratic field for governor continues to grow.

Four Democrats have announced gubernatorial bids so far — Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot, former U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr., former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, and former Obama administration official Ashwani Jain.

Former DNC Chairman Tom Perez and nonprofit CEO Wes Moore are likely candidates, as is former former federal official and nonprofit executive Jon Baron. 

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Josh Kurtz
Founding Editor Josh Kurtz is a veteran chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He was an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, for eight years, and for eight years was the editor of E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill. For 6 1/2 years Kurtz wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz regularly gives speeches and appears on TV and radio shows to discuss Maryland politics.