With the retirement of two long-time elected officials from the eastern half of Baltimore County, state Sen. Norman Stone and County Councilman John Olszewski Sr., the region has become the hot bed for political activity in the county. With open seats in every race and signs of voter dissatisfaction, there's certain to be a significant turnover in county and state representation when the dust settles Tuesday.
The loss of manufacturing jobs, the closure and sale of the former Bethlehem Steel facility, concerns about taxes and spending in Annapolis and the county's handling of the controversial North Point Government Center redevelopment project have been fodder for the candidates, particularly in District 6, which covers the Dundalk-Essex area. Even top Democrats concede that voter unhappiness is giving Republicans their best chance in a generation or more of winning office in a district that has been a union stronghold and a reliable supporter of Democratic candidates — at least for the County Council and General Assembly.
One thing many of the East Side candidates have in common is a concern that this working-class end of the county isn't getting sufficient attention from either Annapolis or Towson.
County Council District 7
For the seat vacated by Mr. Olszewski, who served the area for four terms, we support Joseph A. DiCara, 65, a marketing director and former school teacher who has been active in politics and economic development. A Democrat, he has made job creation and the redevelopment of Sparrows Point the focus of his campaign. His vision of a rejuvenated peninsula with an expanded Port of Baltimore presence with roll-on, roll-off car imports, a shipyard and cruise ship terminal providing high-paying jobs, is compelling. He intends to represent the district full-time, and even his background as a trained opera singer (he sang on opening day for the Orioles in 1983, the last year they won a world championship) may come in handy if it helps draw attention to East Side concerns.
District 8 House of Delegates
The district's two incumbents running for re-election, Dels. John Cluster, 60, a Republican, and Eric Bromwell, a Democrat, deserve to be returned to office for their performance in Annapolis. That's especially true for Mr. Bromwell, 37, a second generation lawmaker, seeking his fourth term in the House. His support for marriage equality in a politically moderate district demonstrated backbone and leadership potential. Mr. Cluster, a former police sergeant, has been a conservative voice in the House and expert on matters involving police and corrections — he has been a leading voice on the Baltimore jail scandal — who has not resorted to the polarizing rhetoric of some in his party. As for the third seat, the choice is relatively easy — Renee Smith, 58, of Perry Hall, a Democrat and former aide to state Sen. Kathy Klausmeier. Ms. Smith is a constant presence in community meetings who has built up considerable good will in the process. She would hit the ground running in the General Assembly. Republican Christian Miele, 33, of Nottingham is also impressive. He has politically moderate views and pragmatic approach to issues, and we are hopeful the former college administrator and soon-to-be lawyer will seek elected office again.
District 6 Senate
Dundalk's John Olszewski Jr. is our choice to take the seat formerly held by Senator Stone, the longest serving state senator in Maryland's history. After eight years representing the district in the House of Delegates, Delegate Olszewski (or "Johnny O Jr." or simply "Junior," as he's widely known) is uniquely qualified to represent the county's southeastern corner in the upper chamber. His top priorities center around reviving the economy from lowering bridge and tunnel tolls for commuters to investing more in job training, a manufacturing tax credit and public-private partnerships like those that have helped expand Baltimore's port and bring an Amazon warehouse to the region. Mr. Olszewski is not a party-line Democrat, particularly on matters of taxes and fees, which is likely what district voters expect from their representatives in Annapolis.
District 6 House
Democrat Mike Weir Jr., the lone incumbent in the race, merits a fourth term in the House. The 66-year-old retired county fire captain from Essex has been a strong supporter of education, the Chesapeake Bay and issues involving seniors, much like this father was before him. Filling the other two vacancies is a tough call with a field featuring both political veterans and newcomers, but our preference is for the latter — Republicans Bob Long and Ric Metzgar. Mr. Long, 57, a Dundalk real estate broker who ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2010 would like to see property and corporate taxes lowered but is also careful not to make unrealistic promises to voters. Mr. Metzgar, 60, an Essex resident and manager of a used car lot, would bring a fresh, pro-small business perspective as well. He wants greater public investment in ailing business areas like those along Eastern Boulevard although he, like the other candidates in the race, favors tax relief as well.