By Len Lazarick
In the GOP race for Baltimore County executive, it’s the Republican establishment versus the Trump insurgency, the organized insider versus the populist maverick, a candidate who sticks to the script versus one who shoots from the lip. And good hair versus bad hair.
On Saturday, the contrasts between Maryland Insurance Commissioner and former delegate Al Redmer and Del. Pat McDonough were as stark as the places they made their announcements.
For McDonough, it was the back room of the Boulevard Diner in Dundalk, crowded with close to 100 people, the diner chosen because it was where presidential candidate Donald Trump had lunch last fall and McDonough had his picture taken with him.
“We will put people first … We will get the drug dealers out,” McDonough said. He would stop county subsidies to Baltimore cultural institutions, and “I would bring Amazon [HQ] to TradePoint” in Dundalk, the former Bethlehem steel plant site, rather than support its location at Port Covington in the city, as current Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz did.
“It’s like we owe Baltimore City something,” McDonough said. “We need to put Baltimore County first.”
Out in Rosedale Saturday evening, more than 600 people showed up for Redmer at the spiffy Boumi Temple, not the least of whom was Gov. Larry Hogan, who had appointed him insurance commissioner. Hogan praised Redmer’s business background and the way he helped Hogan carry Baltimore County by 20 points.
Redmer was the M.C. for Hogan’s statewide victory party in 2014.
“He gives us the best chance to win [the executive office] in many, many years,” said Hogan. The governor listed all the accomplishments of his administration, calling it “the greatest economic turnaround in the United States of America.”
Redmer adapted Hogan’s campaign slogan — “changing Maryland for the better” — for his own race. “We’re not just going to change Baltimore County for the better, we’re going to cleanup up Baltimore County.” He said some areas of the county get attention from county government, while others are neglected.
As owner of an insurance brokerage and administrator of a state agency, he said he had more executive experience than any of the candidates in both parties.
Two names went unmentioned during the speeches by Hogan and Redmer: Donald Trump and Pat McDonough. But Redmer did respond to one of McDonough’s more persistent criticisms, defending his agency’s handling of the insurance claims from Hurricane Isabel in 2003 as insurance commissioner during the Ehrlich administration. The storm surge from Isabel caused wide damage along Baltimore County’s waterfront, and Redmer said his agency was proactive responding to the problem.
McDonough at his own event was not reluctant to criticize Hogan and Redmer by name, handing out a sheet he called the Redmer Report, listing a string of criticisms of the insurance commissioner.
“The governor wants a county executive he can control and tell what to do,” said McDonough.
Redmer, 61, lost a primary race for state senate in 2014, and McDonough, 74, lost a race for Congress against Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger last year. McDonough made a final promise.
“This is my last hurrah — this is it,” he said. “I gave up a safe seat in the House of Delegates. I could have easily won reelection.”