Maryland governor campaign of late Kevin Kamenetz gives unspent cash to scholarships, hospital, arts, zoo

Nearly $1.4 million in unspent campaign funds from the late Kevin Kamenetz’s bid for governor will be used to fund college scholarships, as well as boost programs at Northwest Hospital, the Hippodrome Foundation and the Maryland Zoo.

Kamenetz, the Baltimore County executive who was one of the leading Democratic candidates for governor, had about $1.375 million in his campaign account when he died May 10 after suffering cardiac arrest.

After paying outstanding bills and consulting with Kamenetz’s family, the campaign decided to donate the rest of the money to charity, as allowed by state law.

“We will continue to grieve the loss of Kevin, but we are confident and hopeful these donations will build upon his legacy and provide support to organizations that Kevin thought so highly of, and worked so hard to promote,” said Kamenetz’s widow, Jill Kamenetz, during a news conference at Northwest Hospital on Thursday.

“I’m sure he’s looking down right now, smiling and very proud,” she said.

Most of the money — $915,000 — will go to Central Scholarships, an Owings Mills-based organization that provides college scholarships in the Baltimore region.

Though details are being worked out still, the money will be dedicated to scholarships for graduates of Baltimore County public schools, said Jan Moylan Wagner, president of Central Scholarship.

“Like Kevin, we believe in the transformative power of education,” Wagner said.

Kamenetz’s teenage sons, Karson and Dylan, insisted on the scholarships, said Charles Klein, the campaign’s finance chairman.

“It will be able to help a lot of students,” Klein said.

Another $250,000 will be donated to Northwest Hospital in Randallstown to support its cardiac care program.

Brian White, executive vice president of LifeBridge Health, said Kamenetz was a dedicated supporter of the hospital. He recalled preparing to meet with Kamenetz for the first time to sell the county executive on his vision for Northwest Hospital when he was the hospital’s president.

“I go in with a lot of energy, a lot of passion, a lot of enthusiasm,” White said. “And I was met with that times 10.”

The county government partnered with Northwest on programs such as a Live Near Your Work initiative that encouraged hospital employees to live in the Randallstown area.

“We shared a love for making Randallstown better,” White said.

The Hippodrome Foundation and the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore each will receive $100,000 from the campaign.

Olive Waxter, director of the Hippodrome Foundation, recalled how Kamenetz encouraged suburban residents to visit the city after the rioting and unrest following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody in 2015.

“In the times of need in Baltimore City, the county executive encouraged Baltimore County citizens and everyone else to come down to Baltimore City and enjoy the cultural opportunities that exist down there,” she said. “All of us were grateful.”

Because the campaign funds were raised for the benefit of Kamenetz only, no other candidate could use the money after his death — including Kamenetz’s former lieutenant governor running mate, Valerie Ervin, who made a run for governor in Kamenetz’s place. Ervin ended her campaign this week and endorsed Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III.

pwood@baltsun.com

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