In the closing days of the hotly contested race for the Democratic nomination for Baltimore County Executive, Councilwoman Vicki Almond is getting financial backing from a well-known developer.
One of Almond’s opponents, State Senator Jim Brochin, said that makes his case that she is in the developers’ pocket. Almond countered her integrity is being attacked unfairly.
Campaigning at the early voting site at Towson University, Brochin ran into voter Jacob Thompson from Pikesville.
Thompson picked right up on Brochin’s now well-worn pitch against overdevelopment. Thompson brought up to Brochin Caves Valley Partners, who was the initial developer for Towson Row until the project hit rock and ran aground.
“In downtown Towson right now there’s a site there with all the dirt scraped up because something went wrong with rocks underground they didn’t know about and it seems like a mess and now it has to be bailed out,” Thompson said.
There is debate whether it should be called a bail out. The county gave the new developer of Towson Row $43 million in up front tax credits and a grant.
Now in the closing days of the campaign, a Super PAC called Baltimore County Votes was created in support of Almond. According to its finance report in one day, June 14, $42,000 was dumped into the Super PAC. $17,500 of that came from Caves Valley, or from people or companies connected with it. More than $30,000 has been spent on campaign mailers. Brochin said that’s a payoff for Almond providing the decisive fourth vote on the county council for Towson Row.
“She gets a $42,000 slush fund so they can trash and impugn my integrity,” Brochin said.
But Almond said it is Brochin who is doing the impugning.
“I’ve been working in community activism for so many years,” Almond said. "And I’ve built up a reputation and I don’t like the fact that someone is trying to take that away."
Almond agreed the existence of the Super PAC helps Brochin make his case, but she added if you look at the facts his case falls apart. Almond said she has nothing to do with the Super PAC. By law, campaigns and Super PACs can’t be connected.
The fiercest fight in this three-way race for the Democratic nomination has been between Almond and Brochin. They’ve been attacking each other in TV ads, mailings and on social media.
Meanwhile, the third candidate, former Delegate Johnny Olszewski, said he is focused on a positive message centered on education. Olszewski’s campaign has had a wild ride of late, courtesy of the Baltimore Sun. First, he came in third in a poll released last week by the Sun and the University of Baltimore, 16 points behind the leader, Brochin. Then two days later, Olszewski got a boost by picking up the Sun’s endorsement.
“Politics is full of highs and lows,” Olszewski said. “And a day is a lifetime in politics.”
There are not too many of those days left before the June 26 primary. Now begins the sprint to the finish. Almond said she believes it’s a horserace.
“It’s quite nerve-racking, really,” Almond said. "But I feel confident. I feel like our momentum is good.”
And Olszewski believes there are still a lot of undecided voters.
“I would say that anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of the people we’ve been talking to this past week still have yet to make up their minds,” Olszewski said.
Key battlegrounds include parts of the county none of the candidates has represented, like Randallstown and Catonsville.
Thursday is the final day of early voting in Maryland and the primary is Tuesday, June 26.