Marking a generational shift in Baltimore County politics, Del. John A. Olszewski Jr. is scheduled to announce Tuesday that he's running for the Dundalk-area Maryland Senate seat held by Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr. for almost 50 years.
Stone, like Olszewski a Democrat, confirmed Monday that he intends to retire when his current term — his 12th in the Senate — ends after next year. The 77-year-old senator previously served a term in the House of Delegates, which by the end of his term would bring his total service in the General Assembly to 52 years — a Maryland record.
Olszewski, 30, is expected to make his announcement at Rowboat Willie's marina and restaurant in Miller's Island. Stone said he would be on hand to lend his support. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller also is expected to attend, lending his implied blessing to the succession.
Like Stone, Olszewski came to the General Assembly in his 20s. The son of county Councilman John A. Olszewski Sr., he was appointed to the seat in 2006 and won election that year and in 2010 — leading the ticket in the three-member district both times.
Olszewski said a move to the Senate would let him build on the record he has compiled as a delegate.
"I'm running so I can be an even more aggressive advocate for the residents of District 6," he said. "My experience is that people are looking for common sense solutions to everyday problems. I'm not opposed to working across the aisle if it's good for the people I represent."
The 6th District, which includes Dundalk and the surrounding areas of southeastern Baltimore County, is a longtime Democratic bastion in which Republicans have been increasingly competitive. In 2010, GOP nominee Bruce Kahl garnered 42 percent of the vote against Stone, who had faced no Republican opposition as recently as 1998 and 2002.
Like Stone, Olszewski generally reflects the traditional blue-collar, pro-labor but socially conservative wing of the Democratic Party. For instance, Olszewski voted against Gov. Martin O'Malley's recent gun legislation, gas tax increase and death penalty repeal. But in a break with his 6th District colleagues, he supported the 2011 bill that legalized same-sex marriage in Maryland.
David Ferguson, executive director of the Maryland GOP, said he knows of several well-qualified Republicans who are considering a run for the Senate seat.
"We hope to put up a serious challenge in 2014 to make sure that's a pickup for the Republicans," he said.
Olszewski is one of several delegates who will attempt to win Senate seats next year. In western Howard County, Del. Gail Bates is expected to announce Tuesday that she will seek the seat being vacated by her Republican colleague, Sen. Allan Kittleman, who is running for county executive.
Bates, a member of the General Assembly since 2002, will make official her bid for the Howard-Carroll seat at an event in Woodbine.
In eastern Howard, Del. Guy Guzzone will attempt to succeed retiring Sen. James Robey, a fellow Democrat. Del. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam is challenging Sen. Verna Jones -Rodwell in the Democratic primary for a redistricted seat that now straddles the Baltimore-Baltimore County line.
Del. Brian J. Feldman, a Montgomery County Democrat, is seeking appointment to the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Rob Garagiola and would likely seek a full term in 2014. Del. Susan Lee, a Montgomery County Democrat, is expected to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Brian E. Frosh, who is running for attorney general.
Several other delegates are expected to make similar announcements in the next few months.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun