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Election 2024 Government & Politics

Johnny O makes congressional bid official

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. (D) speaks with reporters in the Maryland State House. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. (D) confirmed the worst-kept secret in Maryland politics Tuesday morning: He’s seeking the 2nd District congressional seat.

In an 85-second video, Olszewski said he’ll run for Congress now that 11-term Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) has announced plans to retire.

“Together, we have modernized Baltimore County’s government, made historic investments in our schools, roads, parks, and beyond, and tackled issues like gun safety, police reform, and attainable housing,” Olszewski said in a statement. “I’m running for Congress so that we can help do the same in D.C. It’s time for a new generation of leaders in Washington who will defend our democracy, ensure Maryland remains a beacon of hope for women and choice, act with urgency to combat climate change and work to lower costs for our families. We can do all this — and more — just as we’ve always done: together.”

Olszewski is expected to file paperwork at the Maryland State Board of Elections on Wednesday to officially become a candidate.

Olszewski starts the sprint to the May 14 Democratic primary as the strong favorite to win the seat,  which takes in most of Baltimore County and most of Carroll County. He opened his campaign Tuesday by releasing a list of 65 current and former elected officials who are supporting his candidacy — not all of them residents of Baltimore County or the 2nd District.

But he won’t have the Democratic field to himself. Del. Harry Bhandari (D-Baltimore County) filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission Monday to become a candidate.

“From my journey from Nepal to Maryland, working from gas station attendant to State Delegate, I’m committed to giving back to this great country,” Bhandari said in a Facebook post.

The three state lawmakers who share a district with Bhandari — state Sen. Katherine Klausmeier (D) and Dels. Nick Allen (D) and Carl Jackson (D) — are among those endorsing Olszewski.

“I’m proud to support him to be our next Congressman, because I know we can count on him to make our government more open and responsive to the communities we serve,” Jackson said in a statement supplied by Olszewski’s campaign.

Medical assistant Jessica Sjoberg and insurance agent Clint Spellman Jr. are also seeking the Democratic nomination. The lone Republican contender so far is David Wallace, a businessman and frequent candidate. The candidate filing deadline is Feb. 9.

Although the 2nd District contains some significant conservative pockets, it is generally considered safe Democratic territory, especially in a presidential election year. Rupperberger defeated Republican National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose 59% to 41% in 2022 — a good year for Democrats in the state.

Although he’s only 41, Olszewski is a veteran officeholder, having first been appointed to the House of Delegates in 2006, at the age of 23. He served two full terms in the House, then lost a state Senate bid in 2014. Four years later, he was elected county executive after winning a three-way Democratic primary by a minuscule margin.

Olszewski created an exploratory committee for a possible congressional bid last year. If he’s elected to Congress, the Baltimore County Council would select someone to serve the final two years of his term in Towson.

This breaking news story has been updated.


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Johnny O makes congressional bid official