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Olszewski Will Run For Reelection Rather Than For Governor

Olszewski at vaccination site
Baltimore County
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski announced Thursday he will run for a second four-year term next year instead of entering a competitive race for governor.

In a video released Thursday morning, the Democrat touted accomplishments during his administration such as making government more transparent and dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. But he said there is much more work still ahead.

“We’re also moving on with that work at a time that is unique and is probably a once-in-a-generation opportunity to not just recover from COVID-19 to where we were, but to aspire to where we should have always been,” Olszewski said. “That work requires a sustained focus on what’s in front of us. That’s why I’m excited to share with you that I intend to seek re-election as your Baltimore County Executive.”

Olszewski did not mention the governor’s race in his announcement. In an interview last month with WYPR, he said he was weighing his options, including talking to friends, supporters and his family.

“Obviously campaigns are a big sacrifice and require your family to be part of it,” Olszewski said then.

In choosing not to run for governor, Olszewski is skipping what is expected to be a competitive contest for the Democratic nomination. State Comptroller Peter Franchot and former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker are already in the race and others may follow.

Olszewski instead enters a race for reelection in which he will be heavily favored. Any Republican who chooses to take on Olszewski will have an uphill climb, to say the least.

Registered Democrats in the county outnumber Republicans more than two to one. The last time a Republican was elected Baltimore County Executive was more than 30 years ago when Roger Hayden held the office from 1990 to 1994.

In his annual campaign finance report in January, Olszewski reported having more than $1.6 million in his campaign coffers. That doesn’t include money from a virtual fundraiser he had in April. Colleen Martin-Lauer, a consultant for the Olszewski campaign, said that event raised around $250,000.

In an interview in April, Republican State Senator Chris West, whose district stretches from Towson to the Pennsylvania line, said he would consider running for county executive only if Olszewski ran for governor.

West said, “If he decides to stay put, I have no interest in running against him because I think he’s been a pretty good county executive under the circumstances.”

Olszewski’s decision to run for reelection ripples through the county government.

At least two fellow Democrats on the county council, Izzy Patoka and Chairman Julian Jones were planning on running for county executive if Olszewski decided to run for governor. With the retirement of 1st District Councilman Tom Quirk, that would have meant at least three vacancies next year on the seven-member body.

In interviews last month, both Patoka and Jones said they instead would run for reelection if Olszewski did the same. That makes a significant turnover on the county council less likely.

Republican Councilmen Wade Kach and Todd Crandell have said they plan to run for reelection. Republican Councilman David Marks has said he is considering running again.

In March, the council defeated establishing term limits. Proponents said turnover would bring fresh blood and new ideas to the council and argued the power of incumbency makes that difficult.

Olszewski was appointed to the Maryland House of Delegates in June 2006 to complete the term of the late John Arnick, who had been appointed to the Maryland Board of Contract Appeals. He won a full term in his own right that fall and was re-elected in 2010, then lost a race for the State Senate in 2014 to Republican Johnny Ray Salling.

In the race for county executive in 2018 Olszewski was considered the long shot candidate in the Democratic primary that included then-Councilwoman Vicki Almond and then-State Sen. Jim Brochin. But Brochin and Almond ended up in a slugfest, and Olszewski scored an upset, beating out Brochin by 17 votes. Olszewski went on to defeat Republican Al Redmer handily in the general election.

In Thursday’s video, Olszewski said, “Just a few years ago, we started a conversation about what a stronger and better Baltimore County looks like. I’m proud to say that in partnership with you we are delivering on that promise.”

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