By Len Lazarick
UPDATED WITH CONTI STATEMENT
Janet Owens won’t be running again for Anne Arundel County executive after months of exploring the race, Owens told MarylandReporter.com Wednesday.
“I feel somewhat ambivalent about it,” said Owens, who served two terms in the post. “I have a happy life. I would have to give that up” and run what would need to be a bruising, “factually negative” campaign against Republican incumbent John Leopold.
This leaves the field open for Democrat Joanna Conti, who will not have a primary opponent if no one else files by Tuesday’s deadline.
Owens spent about $20,000 on two polls earlier this month to help her make up her mind about the race.
“The county is absolutely swinging Republican based on what we saw,” Owens said.
Owens, who had raised about $30,000, paid Lake & Associates of Washington, DC, to poll 500 voters. “As best I can tell it looks like it’s going to be a challenge for Democrats,” Owens said in an interview a week ago.
A county-wide poll of 400 Democrats by Gonzales Research of Annapolis showed the primary looked “very, very good,” Owens said, but “the general election will be a challenge.”
Owens said the “the thought of a long, hard campaign” followed by “a totally demanding four years” was just too much for the 66-year-old, who admitted “age was a factor” in her decision.
Owens said her husband David Sheehan told her, “I lost you for eight years” when she served from 1998 to 2006. Term-limited, she ran for state comptroller and lost, running second in the Democratic primary that ended the 50-year career of William Donald Schaefer, the legendary governor, comptroller and Baltimore mayor.
She said her family was “unanimous” in opposing this year’s run, but told her they willing to help if she really wanted to do it.
Owens has been unhappy with how Leopold has performed in the job, as she told this reporter in early June. “I’m not happy with the direction of the county,” she said, and that was one reason she hesitated so long in making her decision.
Conti is dealing with the death of her father this week, and could not immediately be reached for comment.
UPDATE: But her campaign manager, Mike Souder, said in a statement: “Our county owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Janet Owens for her many years of service. We would very much appreciate her advice during the coming months as we continue our fight to restore fiscal responsibility, accessibility and true leadership to the executive’s office.“
In a long interview this month, Conti told this reporter, “The county is in very difficult straits,” blaming Leopold for not managing well through the fiscal hard times.
“It’s going to be a brutal time,” said Conti. “My biggest problem coming in as county executive is the huge budget deficit we’ll be facing in the next three years.”