Former Montgomery County Executive Sid Kramer (D), a successful businessman and longtime political leader who saw two of his children follow him into political service, died on Monday, a longtime family friend confirmed. He was 96.
A Washington, D.C., native and the son of immigrants, Kramer served on the Montgomery County Council from 1970 until 1974. After an unsuccessful bid to unseat then-Rep. Gilbert Gude (R), he won a seat in the state legislature, representing District 19 for eight years.
He became Montgomery’s third county executive in 1986, overseeing a period of economic growth and expansion.
His 1990 re-election was considered a shoo-in at first, and Kramer began to speak openly about running for governor in 1994, following William Donald Schaefer’s presumed second term. Montgomery was growing rapidly, becoming an economic rival to Baltimore. Kramer told a reporter it was time for the D.C. suburbs to have someone looking after their interests in Annapolis.
His bid for a second term as county executive was derailed in a stunning upset.
Democrat Neal Potter, a 75-year-old who had already announced his retirement after five terms on the county council, filed for executive just moments before the deadline. The low-key Potter later admitted that he didn’t expect to win; he just wanted to hold Kramer’s feet to the fire on issues like growth and taxation.
The incumbent owned a small chain of car washes and commercial property, and he had close ties to the county’s business community.
Though vastly outspent by Kramer, Potter’s relentless focus on “over-development” and “cronyism” enabled him to win the primary. Montgomery voters also enacted a ballot question designed to slow the growth of property taxes that year.
After election night, Kramer pledged to support Potter in the general election, but he quickly changed his mind, opting to run for re-election as a write-in candidate. That bid came up well short.
A staunch advocate for education who came from a humble upbringing, Kramer had close friends in both parties when he served in Annapolis.
“He was magnanimous and gracious,” said Lawrence N. Rosenblum, a longtime Kramer family friend and political adviser. “He was always polite to people. People adored him.”
Even after leaving office, Kramer remained politically active, serving as a mentor to several local leaders, including two county executives who followed him in office, Douglas M. Duncan (D) and Isiah Leggett (D). In 1998, he ran for lieutenant governor on a ticket headed by then-Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann (D), though they finished far behind the ticket headed by incumbent Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) in the Democratic primary.
Kramer’s wife of 60 years, Betty Mae Kramer, who died in 2010, was active in the arts. The art gallery and music room at the Silver Spring Civic Center was named in her honor.
The couple had three children. Daughter Rona, who also served in the state Senate, is head of the Maryland Department of Aging. Son Ben represents District 19 in the Senate, the seat his father once held. Another daughter, Miriam Dubin, did not run for political office. Kramer is also survived by eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
“A great Marylander, Sid Kramer was as civic-minded as they come, making lasting contributions in both business and elected office,” Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) said in a statement. “I had the pleasure of knowing Sid over the years, and it was my honor to contribute to his incredible legacy of service by appointing his daughter Rona as Secretary of Aging.”“The First Lady and I extend our deepest condolences to Secretary Kramer and her family as they mourn this loss.”
Sid Kramer was president of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Silver Spring. He was held leadership posts with the Montgomery United Way, the Maryland Association for Retarded Children, and Holy Cross Hospital.
Funeral arrangements had not been announced as of mid-day Tuesday.