In Baltimore County executive race, Democrats raise big money

Democrats raising serious money for Baltimore County exec race, Republicans less active.

Three Democrats who may vie to replace Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz in 2018 have combined to raise more than $1.2 million in the past year, according to new campaign finance reports.

County Councilwoman Vicki Almond raised $244,000 to bring her available cash to more than $483,000, the most of any candidate who has said they're considering a run for county executive in 2018.

Sen. Jim Brochin is just behind Almond, having raised $248,000 and with $471,000 in the bank. Former state Del. John Olszewski Jr. raised $175,000, giving him about $300,000 on hand.

Kamenetz is term-limited as county executive and is considering a challenge to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in 2018. Kamenetz has $1.6 million in his campaign account, while Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford's campaign accounts total $5.1 million.

Candidates for state and county offices were required to file reports this week detailing their fundraising efforts over the past 12 months. Some have estimated it may take $1 million to mount a successful county executive campaign in Baltimore County, which is the state's third-largest jurisdiction with more than 830,000 residents.

Almond, who lives in Reisterstown, has said only that she's considering a run.

"After a yearlong fundraising break due to the County Council's quadrennial review of zoning issues, I am humbled by the broad support I received from my constituents, community leaders, and businesses across Baltimore County," Almond said in a statement.

Brochin said his fundraising makes him viable as a county executive candidate, but he has not committed to running.

"A lot of the money came from people who are frustrated in the pay-to-play system in Baltimore County," he said.

The Towson senator is sponsoring a bill in the General Assembly that would effectively ban campaign contributions by developers, their attorneys and engineers, and relatives.

Olszewski, who is from Dundalk and is considering running for county executive, told supporters in an email that he met his fundraising goal for the year. He said 60 percent of his contributions were $250 or less, showing he has support from individuals and small businesses.

"This report shows that we are and will remain competitive," Olszewski said.

The Republican field for the county executive's race has not yet emerged. Half a dozen names have been floated by political insiders, but none filed campaign finance reports indicating serious attempts at fundraising over the past year.

Al Mendelsohn, chairman of the Baltimore County Republican Party, said that he's met with two prospective candidates, whom he declined to name, and that they feel confident about their fundraising abilities. He also pointed out that Democrat Hillary Clinton heavily outspent Republican Donald J. Trump in the presidential race and still lost.

"I expect that to happen to any of the Democratic Party candidates for county executive," Mendelsohn said.

Del. Kathy Szeliga of Perry Hall and Del. Pat McDonough of Middle River spent most of 2016 raising money and campaigning for federal offices. Szeliga ran for the U.S. Senate and reported having $27,000 in her state account.

McDonough, who ran for Congress, is the only Republican to say he's actively considering a county executive bid. He did not file his campaign reports by Wednesday night's deadline, but said he is planning to soon.

"We've been a little tied up with the opening of the General Assembly and the inauguration," McDonough said.

McDonough said he believes county voters want change after more than two decades of Democratic leadership.

"This is a golden opportunity for Republicans to win this seat," he said.

Councilman Wade Kach of Cockeysville has said he's been encouraged to run. He has the most money of the potential Republican contenders, with nearly $59,000 in the bank after raising about $15,000 in 2016.

Insurance commissioner Al Redmer of Middle River filed a report saying he didn't intend to raise or spend more than $1,000, while deputy transportation secretary Jim Ports of Nottingham doesn't have an active campaign account.

Former Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman, who now lives in Towson, does not have an active campaign account.

Baltimore Sun reporter Alison Knezevich contributed to this article.

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