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Redmer, McDonough Duel in GOP Baltimore County Executive Primary

John Lee

The race for the Republican nomination for Baltimore County Executive pits an establishment candidate with the governor’s seal of approval against a self-described crusader who is counting on votes from Trump supporters. The battle between State Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer Junior and Delegate Pat McDonough has been contentious.


McDonough handed out campaign signs, shook hands and posed for pictures at a recent gathering of dozens of supporters at a Catonsville restaurant. McDonough also laid out his vision for Baltimore County, such as his proposed moratorium on Section 8 housing.


“How much money do we have to spend on education now that we wouldn’t have to spend without Section 8?” McDonough asked the crowd. “How much money do we have to spend on social services? Why should we be exploited?”


This is a key theme of McDonough’s campaign, which he calls a crusade. McDonough says the county is at risk of losing its quality of life because poverty is being transferred from Baltimore City. Indicators of that range from boarded up homes to rat infestation, to an increase in crime to violence in schools.  McDonough promises to be Baltimore County’s police chief and that there will be a zero-tolerance for crime both on the street and in the schools.


“I grew up in Baltimore City,” McDonough said. “I saw what happened in Baltimore City. I will not permit that to happen in my county.”


McDonough has served in the House of Delegates for 20 years representing Eastern Baltimore County. 


He dismisses his opponent, State Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer Junior, as “an empty suit.” 


“Redmer is clueless,” McDonough said. “I don’t think he understands any of this stuff.”


Redmer scoffs at that notion. He said he has decades of executive experience working with others and getting things done that McDonough can’t match, calling him an isolated legislator. 


“Pat has not had that same level of experience,” Redmer said at a League of Women Voters forum in April. “Hasn’t had that level of success. Doesn’t work well with Democrats or Republicans. Ask them, not me.”


Redmer said he and McDonough agree on most things. McDonough counters Redmer swiped his issues. And Redmer dismisses McDonough’s claim that he is doing his state insurance commissioner job part-time on the taxpayer’s dime while running for county executive.


“That’s Pat being Pat,” Redmer said.


Redmer said McDonough makes stuff up and that he won’t debate him one-on-one again without assurances the forum will be more controlled.


Redmer is serving his second stint as state insurance commissioner. He also had the job during Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s administration. Before that, he spent 12 years in the General Assembly.


If elected, Redmer said he will improve the county’s customer service, and appoint an inspector general to do a top to bottom review of county government. McDonough wants a county-wide audit as well.


Governor Hogan backs Redmer and is headlining a rally for him June 23 in Essex, which is considered a McDonough stronghold. Redmer is banking on the governor’s popularity helping him out.


“I think and expect he will help me win the primary and I tell him I’m going to help drag him to the finish line in the general election,” Redmer said.


But McDonough expects there will be low turnout for the Republican primary because the governor is running unopposed, and he believes that works in his favor. McDonough said his supporters, older conservatives who voted for Donald Trump in 2016, are most likely to show up. 


And it probably will come down to turn-out. In a Baltimore Sun/University of Baltimore poll released this week, McDonough has a five point lead over Redmer, which is practically within the survey’s margin of error.


John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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