By Amanda Yeager, firstname.lastname@example.org
10:25 PM EST, February 25, 2014
Update: After this story was filed, District 3 County Council candidate Brent Loveless decided to withdraw from the race, citing conflicts with his job.
The Feb. 25 candidate filing deadline has passed, and Howard County’s cast of 2014 political contenders is set.
At the county executive level, Democratic County Council member Courtney Watson and Republican State Sen. Allan Kittleman have no competition in the primaries, allowing them to set their sights on the general election in November.
With two terms under their belts and eligibility for one more, the four other council members are running for re-election, and most face some opposition.
Council chair Calvin Ball, a District 2 Democrat representing east Columbia, has a general election challenge from Reg Avery, a Republican retired Army officer who lost to Ball in 2010; and Republican Ralph Colavita, an Ellicott City resident.
Jen Terrasa, who represents the southeast county in District 3, will have a Democratic primary, with the last-minute entry of North Laurel community activist Brent Loveless into the race.
And west county Republican Greg Fox, who represents District 5, will face citizen activist Alan Schneider, a Democrat, in November.
As of Tuesday evening, west Columbia Democrat Mary Kay Sigaty, of District 4, didn’t have any competition.
In 2010, all five Council members, who were up for their second terms, had general-election challengers.
In District 1, five candidates have filed for a shot to replace Watson. Four candidates will compete for the Democratic nomination: Ellicott City businessman Jon Weinstein; former Planning Board chair Dave Grabowski, of Elkridge; Ellicott City citizen activist Lisa Markovitz; and community activist Wendy Royalty, also of Ellicott City.
Republican Kevin Schmidt, an Ellicott City resident who works for a Washington-based security firm, will have a primary race against David Blake Melton, also a Republican from Ellicott City.
With an earlier primary election this year, on June 24, candidates have just four months to connect with voters. The general election is on Nov. 4.
Kittleman files government transparency bills
State Sen. Allan Kittleman, a western Howard Republican who is running for county executive, has introduced a roster of General Assembly bills that seek to increase government transparency requirements and limit perks awarded to state legislators.
One bill would allow only those legislators who live 50 or more miles from the State House to claim housing allowance funds, currently available to all senators and delegates to pay for lodging in Annapolis during the legislative session.
The bill allows for all General Assembly members to use the allowance during the last two weeks of session, when legislators traditionally stay late into the night in a last-minute effort to get bills passed. Members who live closer than 50 miles from the State House could also get authorization from their presiding officer to continue receiving the allowance.
Kittleman lives about 41 miles from the State House, according to a Google Maps estimate.
Another bill would prohibit General Assembly members who do use a housing allowance during session from collecting points, perks or other rewards earned through use of the housing allowance.
Government transparency bills introduced by Kittleman include legislation to require that advance notice of public meetings contain information about the matters to be discussed or decided during those meetings; a bill that adds multimember subcommittees of a standing committee to the definition of “public bodies” under the state’s Open Meetings Act; and legislation to require regulated lobbyists to disclose the names of elected officials who accepted free food and drinks from them at a meal during the legislative session.
Kittleman has also introduced a bill in the Senate that would overhaul the General Assembly and Congressional legislative districting process by establishing a bipartisan appointed commission to re-examine the districts after every decennial census.
Currently, the governor of Maryland is responsible for presenting a redistricting plan to the General Assembly, which can either vote to adopt its own plan or allow the governor’s plan to become law.
Eight Republican colleagues, as well as two Democrats, have joined him in co-sponsoring the bill. Kittleman is also co-sponsoring a bill, introduced by Baltimore County Sen. Delores Kelley, that would require the governor's redistricting plan to be introduced as a bill, rather than a joint resolution, ensuring that any proposal would receive a public hearing process.
Kittleman’s opponent in the county executive race, Democrat Courtney Watson, has also been vocal about increasing transparency.
While on the County Council, Watson has sponsored bills to require developers to send notice of pre-submission community meetings at least three weeks before the scheduled meeting, and to require those meetings to be held in public buildings within a 5-mile radius of the development site. Her bills also allowed citizens to request a meeting with a staff member of the Department of Planning and Zoning about development plans, as well as clarified that members of the public may ask council members questions during a public hearing, among other rights.