With just days until early voting begins, state Sen. Jim Brochin is leading the Democratic field running for Baltimore County executive while Del. Patrick L. McDonough is ahead in the Republican race.
In the Democratic primary, Brochin leads with 30 percent, followed by Councilwoman Vicki Almond with 22 percent and former Del. Johnny Olszewski Jr. with 14 percent, according to a new poll of registered likely voters for The Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore.
In the Republican primary, McDonough leads Al Redmer Jr., the state insurance commissioner, 39 percent to 34 percent.
Among the Democrats, Brochin not only has the lead but enjoys a solid base of support, said pollster Steve Raabe, whose OpinionWorks firm conducted the survey. He noted that more than half of Brochin’s supporters say they are firmly behind him, and he has a 10-point lead among those who say they are certain to vote.
Brochin also enjoys support from voters aged 65 and older, who usually turn out.
“It’s his race to lose,” Raabe said.
But he said Almond, though behind, may have momentum; the poll shows she is drawing support from voters who recently made up their minds.
The race on the Republican side is much closer, with McDonough polling five points ahead of Redmer — barely outside the survey’s margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.
“It’s a statistical dead heat,” said Roger Hartley, dean of the University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs. “This one is really seriously interesting.”
OpinionWorks polled 400 registered likely voters in the Republican primary and 400 registered likely voters in the Democratic primary. The primaries will determine who will face off in November to become Baltimore County’s next chief executive. Kevin Kamenetz, who held the job for two terms and was running for governor, died suddenly last month. The county council selected Don Mohler, Kamenetz’s chief of staff, to serve the rest of his term.
The primary election is June 26, but early voting begins Thursday.
Democrat Bob Bowie, an attorney-turned-playwright from Monkton, says he plans to vote for Brochin. The senator’s pledge to limit the influence of developers and stop over-development resonates with him.
And Bowie, 70, says he’s been impressed with Brochin’s work representing constituents, always showing up to community meetings and candidly giving his opinion on policy issues.
“He’s an absolutely independent person,” Bowie said. “He knocks on doors, he meets people, he’s really committed to the job. I value that. I think there are very few hard-working, role model, public service politicians, and he’s one of them.”
While many Brochin voters say they decided to back him weeks ago or longer, a third of Almond’s supporters say they made up their minds just in the past few days.
“Her vote is a little more recent,” Raabe said. “She’s potentially enjoying some movement towards her.”
Robert Terkowitz, 60, plans to vote for Almond.
Terkowitz, who describes himself as semi-retired, lives in Almond’s council district and likes that she has pushed for new developments. He says they improve the community and grow the county’s tax base. In particular, he’s impressed with Foundry Row, a retail redevelopment of a former Solo Cup factory in Owings Mills that was made possible by a zoning decision Almond made.
“That was a huge eyesore and had great potential, and she made it happen,” Terkowitz said.
Terkowitz also likes Almond’s personal story of working her way up from being raised by a single mother to becoming a community volunteer and politician.
Almond has the potential to close the gap with Brochin, Raabe said. But at this point, he said, Brochin is in a strong position to win.
“He’s in the lead, his vote is firm and most of the people who are for him have known they’re going to vote for him quite a long time, at least several weeks,” Raabe said.
Olszewski is running as a progressive but his message seems not to be catching on. He trails both Brochin and Almond significantly. “He’s not behind one person, he’s behind two, so he has to overcome quite a lot,” Raabe said.
Hartley said that with 30 percent undecided, all three Democrats will need to focus on their get-out-the-vote efforts to make sure their supporters make it to the polls.
“That’s where any person in this race has a chance to make up some ground — including Johnny O — but it’s going to depend on who will be able to phone bank and get early reliable voters out, starting this week,” Hartley said.
Among Republicans, McDonough enjoys the support of voters who made up their minds long ago, with 61 percent saying they decided to vote for him more than a few weeks ago, an unusually high number.
His supporters include Andrew Vineberg, 44, of Sparks.
“Pat McDonough stands for conservatism,” said Vineberg, who works in sales. “He doesn’t seem to be in the developers’ pockets.”
Redmer, meanwhile, is picking up support from people just now making decisions in the race, with 63 percent of his supporters deciding in the last few days or weeks. Redmer is backed by popular GOP Gov. Larry Hogan and recently began airing ads on cable TV.
“There is definitely evidence here of a movement toward Redmer,” Raabe said.
Janice Spigler, 84, of Lutherville said she plans to vote for Redmer. She called McDonough “very opinionated” and she would definitely not vote for him.
“I've seen his name in a lot of things over the years and he doesn't appeal to me at all,” said Spigler, a retired certified public accountant.
She said experience is important to her.
“I don't think [McDonough] is qualified,” she said. “I think Redmer is a more responsible type of person who's better for a job like that.”
Raabe said the GOP race is much closer among people who said they are certain to vote — a group in which 38 percent are for McDonough, 35 percent for Redmer.
There are significantly fewer Republicans in Baltimore County than Democrats, and with Hogan running unopposed in the GOP primary for governor, Republican turnout could be light, Raabe said.
“This one looks like it could go either way, even though McDonough has a lead right now,” Raabe said. “A few votes are going to make a big difference in this race.”
Results are based on surveys of 400 likely Baltimore County Democratic primary voters and 400 likely Baltimore County Republican voters. The poll was conducted by OpinionWorks of Annapolis for The Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs and Schaefer Center for Public Policy. The survey was conducted by telephone, both land-based and cellular, by trained interviewers from May 30 through June 9. Voters were randomly selected for interviews from a voter file provided by the State Board of Elections. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.