The executive and legislative branches of the Baltimore County government currently are in the hands of Democrats. But county Republicans are hoping to gain control of the government come election day. WYPR's John Lee talked with Morning Edition host Nathan Sterner about the GOP strategy.
Sterner: John, what races are they targeting?
Lee: Well there is the county executive’s race, of course, where Republican Al Redmer is competing against Democrat Johnny Olszewski. Redmer has promised a competitive race and he is following through on that promise. He’s been raising money and was the first to run TV ads. The last Republican elected as county executive was Roger Hayden in the early 90s.
But there is also a key County Council race going on in the sixth district. Two term incumbent Cathy Bevins is being challenged by Republican Ryan Nawrocki. And this race could decide which party controls the County Council. Democrats currently hold a 4-3 advantage on the council. So if the GOP can pick up a seat, it would take control. And the 6th is probably the most likely pick up.
Sterner: Why do Republicans think they have a shot in the sixth?
Lee: Politically, Baltimore County is geographically split. Republicans control virtually every elected seat, we’re talking legislature as well as the council, on the east side of the county while the Democrats have the west side locked up. The center of the county near the city line is more of a toss up. The western most part of Cathy Bevins’ sixth council district begins in the toss up center, around Parkville and Overlea, but then heads east towards Middle River and and east of 95 up to the Harford County line, a more conservative part of the county.
Bevins describes it as a purple district. She knows Republicans are targeting her this election.
Bevins: “And I think that’s why, you know, they’re really working hard to get Al Redmer in hoping for a republican county executive and a majority county council and that would just be, you know, complete la la land for the republicans so it would be sweet for them.”
If you ask Nawrocki, Bevins’ Republican challenger about that, he agrees it’s a key race then shifts the focus.
Nawrocki: “But I’m not looking at it from that perspective. I’m not coming at it from a partisan way. I’m doing this not because of control of the council but because I think we need a change in our district.”
But if you look at Nawrocki’s latest campaign finance report you’ll see plenty of evidence that local Republican leaders really want him in. Their campaign committees are making sizable donations. And Nawrocki has received a $4,000 loan from Redmer’s campaign. Of course, if Redmer wins the county executive race, he would like nothing better than his fellow Republicans running the show on council.
Sterner: What are the issues in the sixth?
Lee: I attended one of their candidate forums recently and no one attending asked the candidates about the political ramifications of the race. It was all about issues.
Nawrocki said his number one issue is crime.
Nawrocki: “I’ve knocked on almost 10,000 doors in this process and I hear crime at nearly every single door.”
Lee: Bevins touted her record on constituent services and getting schools built and renovated in her district.
Bevins: “In less than six years I went from 52 percent of my schools being air conditioned to 100 percent of my schools being air conditioned. I advocate for dollars every single day.”
Lee: They also debated development, government transparency and the opioid crisis. This is bread and butter local government stuff that candidates throughout the county are talking about.
And Nathan, this sixth district council forum was a nice reminder that candidates can debate and be civil and respectful. There were no accusations, no raised voices, just a good old fashioned back and forth on the issues.