Baltimore County voters are deciding if the county can use tax money to finance political campaigns. The proposed change to the county charter is Question A on the ballot.
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon in support of the so-called Citizens Election Fund, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski brought up one of his corrupt predecessors.
“Nearly half a century ago, Spiro Agnew betrayed the trust of the people of Baltimore County, committing acts of outright corruption as county executive,” Olszewski said.
Agnew went on to become governor and vice president before resigning in disgrace.
Olszewski said, “Today we are still fighting to remove that stain from our history by tackling the influence of big money and special interests in local politics.”
The idea is that candidates without deep pockets could tap the fund and be competitive.
Joanne Antoine, Executive Director of Common Cause Maryland, said it would empower every day residents to run for office.
“Over time, the council will see more women, will see more people of color,” Antoine said.
The seven member council has one African American, Democrat Julian Jones, and one woman, Democrat Cathy Bevins.
It’s estimated the fund would make more than $4 million available to candidates over four year, but if the amendment passes it wouldn’t take effect until the 2026 election.
Republican Councilman Todd Crandell for one opposes the amendment. Crandell said he doesn’t believe tax dollars should fund political campaigns.
Last year, when the county council voted to put the issue on this year’s ballot, Councilman Jones opposed it as well.
"I do not support giving public tax dollars to candidates," Jones said in a statement at the time. "I think it is not an appropriate use of tax dollars."
At Tuesday’s news conference, Olszewski defended spending tax money to fund elections.
Olszewski said the issues swirling around the 2020 election serve as “a reminder of how important it is to have fair, free and open elections to engage people in the process and have people trust in the process.”