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Top Baltimore County official endorses Perez in Governor’s Race

 Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski
Baltimore County
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski.

After saying repeatedly he would not make an endorsement in the Democratic Gubernatorial race, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Friday threw his support behind former U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez.

In an interview Thursday, Olszewski said he had meant what he said about not endorsing, but changed his mind while watching the Democratic primary unfold.

“Tom Perez has distinguished himself as someone who has put forward ideas that are needed for Baltimore County, for the Baltimore region and for the state,” Olszewski said. “I’ve gotten to know just how much of a similar, working class upbringing Tom and I share and what that means in terms of not forgetting where you come from.”

Olszewski’s endorsement of Perez could help the candidate in Maryland’s third most populous county. Democrats outnumber Republicans in Baltimore County by about two to one. Olszewski won the 2018 county executive race with almost 58% of the vote.

“Voters in Baltimore County are going to have a major say, and Baltimore City for that matter, in who becomes the next governor,” said Perez. “Having the support of the chief executive officer of Baltimore County is a real honor.”

Perez said he and Olszewski have known each other for a while.

“Throughout this campaign, I have kept in close touch with him,” Perez said. “I said I would be honored to have his support and I would work hard to earn that support. When we have governors who work in partnership with our county executives, that’s how we get things done.”

Olszewski said he has spoken to Perez, as well as other gubernatorial candidates about pressing issues in the county, including building new schools and developing a transportation program for the Baltimore region.

“Tom is the kind of person who will get stuff done working with the General Assembly on everything from saving our cherished Chesapeake Bay to fighting back against climate change,” Olszewski said.

A Goucher College Poll, conducted in partnership with WYPR and The Baltimore Banner, released this week, found that Perez is in a tight three-way race for governor with Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and author and small business owner Wes Moore.

Olszewski seriously considered running for governor as well. He announced in May of 2021 that instead he would seek a second term as county executive.

Even before Olszewski’s endorsement of Perez on Friday, there were clear political connections between the two.

Tucker Cavanagh, a senior advisor for the Perez campaign, was Olszewski’s campaign manager in his 2018 run for county executive. Olszewski’s former press secretary, Sean Naron, is Perez’s Communications Director.

Dori Henry, Olszewski’s Deputy Chief of Staff, has worked with Perez in the past and has publicly endorsed him.

Olszewski said how Perez reached out to Henry in a time of crisis “really helped push me over the decision-making point.”

Henry recently recounted on Twitter how her father committed suicide in January, and that to her surprise Perez took time away from campaigning to attend his funeral. Perez also arranged to have Veterans Administration Secretary Denis McDonough call her mother. Henry’s father served in Vietnam.

“At the end of the day, he cares about his people,” Olszewski said.

Olszewski and Perez plan to make a joint campaign appearance Friday in Dundalk.

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