Bartenfelder probably won't back Kamenetz in election

The Democratic candidate for Baltimore County executive, Kevin Kamenetz, has gained ground among his primary opponent's supporters, but Joseph Bartenfelder said he probably won't be among those endorsing his fellow councilman.

"It's fair to say my support for Kevin is pretty unlikely," Bartenfelder said in an interview Friday, the clearest statement he has made on the question since he lost the primary Sept. 14. Asked about why he would not support Kamenetz, with whom he has served on the County Council since 1994, Bartenfelder referred to what he considered misleading Kamenetz campaign advertisements.

"If there wouldn't have been misstatements about what my record was … I'd shake hands and say congratulations and say, 'Let's go win it,'" said Bartenfelder, a farmer from Fullerton.

"My record is what it is; don't misrepresent it," said Bartenfelder, a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates. "I'm very protective of what I think a good reputation is."

Asked about Bartenfelder's unwillingness to endorse the primary winner, Kamenetz campaign manager Peter Clerkin said, "We're bringing together the Democratic Party … so that all Democrats will be on the same page and we'll be successful this fall."

Several organizations and politicians who backed Bartenfelder in the primary have announced their support for Kamenetz. Most recently, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4, representing county police retirees and officers up to the rank of lieutenant, announced it would support Kamenetz.

The Metropolitan Baltimore Council AFL-CIO, an umbrella group of more than 180 union locals, has also backed Kamenetz, who had won only two labor endorsements in the primary: the Teachers Association of Baltimore County and the Laborers International Union of North America.

Among those politicians who backed Bartenfelder and are now supporting Kamenetz are state Sen. Edward Kasemeyer and Dels. Steven J. DeBoy Sr. and James E. Malone, all from the southwest side. From Bartenfelder's home turf on the east side, state Sen. Norman Stone and Dels. Joseph "Sonny" Minnick and Michael Weir Jr. are now backing Kamenetz.

The Baltimore County Professional Firefighters Association, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO but not bound by the council's endorsement, is still deliberating, said Michael Day, union president.

"It was a bitter, nasty campaign," Day said Friday. "There's a lot of hurt feelings."

The Kamenetz campaign and an organization calling itself A Better Baltimore County together produced TV and direct-mail advertisements attacking Bartenfelder's record.

Ads condemning Bartenfelder's environmental record in the state legislature claimed he supported capping oil company damages at $10 million in the event of a spill on the scale of the BP Gulf of Mexico disaster. The legislation cited in the advertisement actually referred to relatively small oil tankers.

Another mailer showed a run-down house with the text: "Joe Bartenfelder's slumlord connections are putting everyone at risk." The ad implied that political contributions from a delinquent property owner influenced Bartenfelder's vote against a county rental property inspection program.

Bartenfelder never responded with negative ads of his own, although members of his campaign staff said they urged him to do so. He said he wanted to run a positive campaign.

Since the primary election, Bartenfelder and Kamenetz have exchanged phone messages, but they had not spoken directly until Bartenfelder called a WCBM-AM radio talk show Sunday, on which Kamenetz was appearing with his Republican opponent, Kenneth C. Holt. Bartenfelder admonished Kamenetz to set a more constructive tone in the general election campaign than he did in the primary.

"Let's make sure you stick with exactly what the facts are, buddy," Bartenfelder said. "I wouldn't want any more of those misrepresented ads out there."

Kamenetz did not respond.

On the show, Bartenfelder was asked, "Have you made a decision, are you officially endorsing in this race?" but his answer was unclear.

Bartenfelder said in the interview Friday that he had not been contacted by Kamenetz or his campaign about an endorsement. He said, "I'm sure they feel they don't need me for anything. Or they're on a guilt trip."

arthur.hirsch@baltsun.com

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