Baltimore County Councilwoman Vicki Almond Tuesday night took herself out of the running to complete Kevin Kamenetz’s term as county executive. Kamenetz died nearly two weeks ago and his term ends December 3. Almond said no thanks even though she had enough votes on the County Council to land the job.
Black cloth remains draped over the doric-columned entrance to the historic county courthouse to mark the passing of Kamenetz, who died of a heart attack. Inside the courthouse Tuesday night the county council held a public hearing on who should finish out his term as county executive. And right from the start, Councilwoman Almond announced she would not take the job, even though she had the support of her fellow Democrats on council and she is currently running in the Democratic Primary for county executive.
“Kevin Kamenetz believed in fair and vigorous campaigns, and so do I,” Almond said. “Kevin’s successor should not be chosen as part of a political coronation by council colleagues.”
But if last night’s public hearing is any gauge, it may have been risky political business for Almond to take the job. A number of the people who spoke, like Brad Kroner, sent a clear message they did not want anyone currently running for public office to be handed the county executive position.
Kroner said, “Appointing a candidate for any office at this point would cause undue influence in the election cycle, which should play out naturally with the June primary just a month away.”
The county charter states that the county council selects the replacement county executive, who has to be from the same political party as Kamenetz, who was a Democrat.
Gary Brewster, a former state delegate who said he had known Kamenetz for nearly 50 years, floated this idea: wait until after the June 26 primary. Then whoever wins the Democratic primary for county executive between Almond, State Senator Jim Brochin, and former Delegate Johnny Olszewski, would be appointed to finish Kamenetz’s term.
“Yes, others have been mentioned and many of them are very appealing candidates,” Brewster said. “But they haven’t been vetted. They haven’t been through the process like those that have chosen to enter the combat of this race to be county executive.”
Republican Councilman David Marks called that idea absurd.
“In one breath, people say they want a fair process,” Marks said. “And in the next breath it’s being suggested that you anoint the Democratic candidate who immediately has an unfair advantage in the general election.”
The name most mentioned Tuesday night as a replacement for Kamenetz was his chief of staff, Don Mohler. Cathy Forbes and others told council Mohler knows Kamenetz’s vision for the county.
“Don’s not running for anything,” Forbes said. “On top of that, he’s a good guy and a person who enjoys widespread support of members of both parties.”
Democratic Councilman Tom Quirk said he supports Mohler and believes the seven council members, four Democrats and three Republicans, may be able to make him a consensus candidate.
“Don Mohler is somebody both Republicans and Democrats have worked well with,” Quirk said.
Mohler did not return a call for comment and Council Chairman Julian Jones cautioned that Tuesday night's public hearing was not a straw poll.
Jones said they also received more than 100 emails from people who wanted to give their two cents that way on who should complete Kamenetz’s term.
In her opening remarks, Councilwoman Almond said the county has suffered greatly in the last couple of weeks, first with the death of Kamenetz then the killing Monday of police officer Amy Caprio, adding this is an extraordinary, humbling time in Baltimore County.
Council meets again on Thursday to pass Kamenetz’s last county budget. It’s possible they could also pick the person who will complete his term.