Republican Al Redmer Jr. is the first on the air with television ads in the Baltimore County executive race, with an ad that paints his Democratic opponent, Johnny Olszewski Jr. as a “big spending taxer.”
The 30-second ad began airing Wednesday morning on all four broadcast networks in Baltimore: WJZ, WBAL, WMAR and WBFF.
Redmer and Olszewski are vying to run the state’s third-largest county.
In addition to Redmer’s TV ads, his campaign has sent multiple mailers to county voters in recent weeks that are critical of Olszewski.
What the TV ad says:
Set against the backdrop of dark pictures and foreboding music, a narrator asks: “You wouldn’t vote for Ben Jealous, right? So why vote for Johnny O? Like Jealous, Johnny’s a big spending taxer.”
The narrator claims that when Olszewski was a state delegate, he voted for all of former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s state budgets and voted “to increase taxes and spending 56 times.”
The narration concludes: “Johnny O and Ben Jealous, a team Baltimore County can’t afford.”
The music then shifts to a brighter tune and Redmer appears on screen at what appears to be a waterfront location. Redmer introduces himself and promises to work with Gov. Larry Hogan “to demand accountability in our schools, encourage job creation and make Baltimore County safer and more affordable.”
This election cycle, Republican candidates are frequently trying to tie their Democratic opponents to Jealous, who is trailing in the polls to Hogan. While Jealous and Olszewski share several policy ideas — such as increasing the minimum wage and expanding prekindergarten — Olszewski has offered lukewarm support for Jealous.
When asked about Jealous, Olszewski generally responds that he’s a Democrat who supports all Democratic candidates.
The Redmer campaign’s tally of 56 votes by Olszewski to increase taxes or spending includes votes on measures that never became law. And some of the 56 votes were on amendments, not on bills themselves.
The list also includes votes for the state government’s budget, which generally involves multiple bills each year.
Olszewski counters that he voted against key tax increases during his time in the General Assembly.
“I voted against the sales tax, the gas tax, the alcohol tax, any number of fees. I opposed the toll increases which weren’t even set by the legislature, which he should know but he didn’t know,” Olszewski said in an interview. He said he also voted to lower income taxes.
Olszewski added that Redmer “should be the last person to lecture anyone on taxes and fees” because as the state’s insurance commissioner, Redmer has presided over rate increases for health insurance plans.
The Redmer campaign stretches a bit when coming up with its 56 votes. In addition to counting routine votes on the budget, some of the fees Olszewski voted for have little effect on most Marylanders. For example, Redmer is counting a $100 fee for out-of-state attorneys practicing in the state, as well as increasing the license fee for pawnbrokers from $75 to $300.
The most notable fees that Olszewski did vote for were to increase the “flush fee” that pays for upgraded environmental controls at sewage plants and a requirement for counties to establish fees to pay for controlling stormwater pollution, often derided as the “rain tax.”
Redmer is likely to benefit from getting on air first and defining his opponent through TV ads. Baltimore County is a large county — more than 830,000 residents — and airing TV ads is a vital tool in reaching the broad electorate.
Olszewski will need to decide when to go on air and whether he should counter with positive ads or attack ads. In the three-candidate Democratic primary, Olszewski kept his ads positive, while the other two candidates went negative on each other.