The widow of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz says her family was caused “additional emotional pain” by a political consultant who she says sought her support for a county executive candidate as the family was mourning his death.
In a statement released to The Baltimore Sun, Jill Kamenetz said political consultant David Heller came to her home while the family was sitting shiva and sought her support for state Sen. Jim Brochin, a Democrat running for county executive.
Shiva is a Jewish mourning period in which the family of the deceased receives visitors in their home, with prayer services conducted each day. After Kevin Kamenetz’s burial May 10, his family observed shiva through May 14.
Heller, who had worked for Kamenetz’s previous campaigns, acknowledged he visited the family’s home in Owings Mills for the final night of shiva. But he denied that he sought Jill Kamenetz’s support for Brochin during the gathering of friends and family.
Brochin said he did not even know that Heller had gone to the Kamenetz home.
“I had no idea David was over there,” said Brochin, one of three leading Democratic candidates for county executive.
At the time of his death, Kevin Kamenetz had not endorsed any of the candidates seeking to succeed him as county executive.
Heller worked on Kamenetz’s 2010 and 2014 county executive campaigns, but he had not been part of the Democrat’s campaign for governor this year.
Heller’s firm, Main Street Communications, has worked for a number of Democratic politicians, including U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh. Brochin’s campaign has paid Heller’s firm more than $795,000 this year for media consulting, mainly for buying air time for TV and radio ads.
Heller said he got to know the Kamenetz family well over the years and that he and his wife attended dinner and a Bruce Springsteen concert with Kevin and Jill Kamenetz.
“I thought the world of Kevin and I think the world of Jill,” Heller said.
Heller said he flew from his home in Florida to Maryland so he could pay his respects while the Kamenetz family was sitting shiva. He said Brochin did not know that he was going to the Kamenetz home.
“Jim wasn’t involved in any way,” he said.
Heller said Jill Kamenetz talked with him mainly about setting up a scholarship fund in her husband’s memory, and Heller offered to help.
Heller said Brochin’s name only came up in the discussion when Jill Kamenetz asked what he had been doing lately.
But Jill Kamenetz tells a different story.
In her written statement, she said Heller stayed later than most other guests.
“He then talked about the County Executive race and started giving me reasons why I should dislike one of the other candidates,” Mrs. Kamenetz said in her statement. “He then told me the best way to get ‘even’ with that candidate was to support Mr. Brochin.”
She said she put an end to the conversation when Heller offered to call Brochin and dialed his number.
“Some people advised me to let this incident go, but I think the right thing to do is to shine a light on what some incorrectly believe is acceptable politics,” Mrs. Kamenetz said. “Now that I have, maybe I can move on from this incident.”
She also said in the statement that the incident caused “additional emotional pain” for her and her two sons.
“Dylan, Karson, and I would like to continue to mourn for the loss of our husband and father, and we ask that politics not be a part of that process,” she said.