Former Governor Martin O’Malley is taking sides in a three-way race for the Democratic nomination for Baltimore County executive.
O’Malley was the big draw last night for a fundraiser for Johnny Olszewski Junior at the 7 West Bistro in Towson. Supporters paid $250 to $2,500 to get in the door. That got them the chance to have a little face time with the former governor.
O’Malley said he’s known Olszewski for decades. They worked together when O’Malley was governor and Olszewski served in the House of Delegates.
O'Malley said of Olszewski, “You can believe everything he says. If he gives you his word, he keeps it. He cares about people. And he is the sort of public servant that we need to support and lift up.”
O’Malley said this is the only endorsement he’s made so far this year in a Maryland county executive’s race.
But what kind of impact O’Malley’s endorsement will have is unclear. One of Olszewski’s Democratic opponents, County Councilwoman Vicki Almond, shrugged it off.
“I just think that at the local level that kind of endorsement, while very nice, doesn’t really affect the race,” Almond said.
The other Democrat in the race, state Senator Jim Brochin, questioned Olszewski tying himself to O’Malley. Brochin pointed out that O’Malley, as governor, raised taxes across the board.
And Baltimore County Delegate Joe Cluster, who is a former executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, finds the O’Malley endorsement of Olszewski "interesting."
Cluster said, “Martin O’Malley is the reason why Johnny Olszewski is not a senator.”
Here’s why, according to Cluster. Olszewski ran for the state Senate in 2014. He lost that race. It was part of a seismic political shift in eastern Baltimore County that year. Democrats lost races in an area of the county that had been reliably theirs. Cluster said Olszewski and other Democrats lost, in part, because O’Malley was an unpopular governor in that part of the county.
“O’Malley’s policies of higher taxes, more regulations, really hurt the workers down there, and it’s a blue-collar, working community,” Cluster said.
Cluster called O’Malley a damaged brand.
But when O’Malley ran for reelection in 2010, he got more votes than Republican Bob Ehrlich in Baltimore County, even though Ehrlich was born and raised in the county. And a Goucher poll conducted in the fall of 2014, just before O’Malley left office, showed 57 percent of Democrats statewide had a favorable opinion of him.
That kind of support could give Olszewski a boost in the Democratic primary in June, and in raising money now.
Olszewski said he and the former governor did not agree on everything when they were in office. But Olszewski called O’Malley's support an important validation.
“You’ve got a guy who ran a city, who is a two-term governor and was a presidential candidate," Olszewski said. "I think that speaks to having someone who’s served in those roles who has seen what you’re capable of and your ability to run Baltimore County.”
Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will face the winner of the GOP primary _ either Delegate Pat McDonough or state Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer.