By Len Lazarick
Republican Allan Kittleman got a boost Saturday from Gov. Larry Hogan and two lieutenant governors — one current, one former – as he seeks to regain the job as county executive he lost four years to Democrat Calvin Ball.
“He was an unbelievable county executive for Howard County,” Hogan told several hundred people gathered at the Kittleman farm in West Friendship. Hogan emphasized Kittleman’s ability to “work across the aisle” and govern in a bipartisan way.
The three Republicans — Hogan, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, a longtime Columbia resident, and former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, now a TV and podcast commentator — all emphasized Kittleman’s positive qualities without mentioning Ball.
But Kittleman and his campaign have sought to play up problems with the Ball administration, including charges of lack of openness and transparency.
The Howard County Council last week unanimously passed legislation to clean up problems caused when Ball’s staff assistant illegally withheld emails sent to the county by a developer’s attorney. The county eventually paid a fine and attorney’s fees to resolve a lawsuit over the withholding of the emails by an aide to County Executive Ball who was also being paid by his campaign.
The bill, sponsored by Republican County Council member David Yungmann and eventually supported by all four Democrats on the council, requires that any denial of requests for documents under the state’s Public Information Act be reviewed by the county’s law department, something the Ball aide had failed to do.
Bob Flanagan, a former Republican delegate, had filed the lawsuit and had essentially won the case in a court hearing. In a text, Flanagan said the new law “codifies a sensible practice followed by Kittleman and probably earlier county executives.”
Kittleman has also been hammering Ball for taking large contributions from contractors and developers, also a common practice among county executives.
Instead, during this campaign Kittleman is participating in Howard County’s Citizen Election Fund, a measure he vetoed when he was county executive. He is taking no donation more than $250 and then getting matching funds from the county.
“It has changed my whole view of how you campaign,” Kittleman said. No longer does he spend time making phone calls to big donors, but instead, he said he spends the time talking to Howard County residents and finding their concerns.