Howard County Executive Calvin Ball will seek another term leading Maryland’s wealthiest and sixth largest county.
On Tuesday, Ball, a Democrat, announced in a video on his campaign Facebook page that he will run for a second four-year term in the 2022 election. He is the only candidate to publicly declare candidacy for Howard County executive so far.
“We’re definitely moving in the right direction, but there’s still more to do to keep Howard County on the road to recovery,” Ball said in the short video.
Ball is one of multiple Maryland county executives in the past month to seek reelection rather than pursue a run for governor. In May, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, both of whom had been floated as potential Democratic candidates for governor, also chose to seek second terms instead of hopping into the crowded gubernatorial race.
Christopher Uhl, a senior adviser to Ball’s campaign, said Ball did “seriously consider” a run for governor.
“However, following the COVID-19 pandemic, County Executive Ball believes we must build on his successes to advance Howard County’s education, economy and environment as we continue on the road to recovery,” Uhl wrote in an email.
Ball, 45, got his start in politics 15 years ago as a County Council member representing District 2, which includes Oakland Mills and Columbia. After serving three terms in the County Council, including six years as its chairperson, Ball was elected as Howard County’s 10th county executive in 2018. He is the first African American to hold the office.
Much of the latter part of Ball’s term has been focused on the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 250 Howard residents since March 2020.
Through federal relief money, the county has provided $18 million to almost 2,000 businesses in the three rounds of its HoCo RISE business grants. The businesses that received grants — 76% of which are women-, minority- or veteran-owned, according to the county — include restaurants, farms, hotels and child care providers.
A key part in the county’s much-improved coronavirus metrics, Howard is first in the state in vaccination rate. As of Tuesday, two-thirds of Howard residents — both adults and children — have received at least one shot. Last month, Howard became the first county in the state to have 50% of its residents be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“In these challenging times, I’ve been inspired by how the people of Howard County have pulled together and helped one another,” Ball said in the video.
Aside from COVID-19, one of the topics Ball is best known for is the county’s relationship with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement over whether immigration detainees can be housed at the Howard County Detention Center in Jessup, a topic that led to several protests in the past few years.
Ball’s tenure as executive has not been without controversy. When he was in the County Council, Ball, alongside fellow member Jen Terrasa, attracted national attention after introducing a proposal to make Howard a sanctuary county for undocumented immigrants. As county executive, however, Ball took nearly two and a half years to end the county’s contract with ICE following multiple protests.
Last October, Ball vetoed legislation passed by the County Council to end the contract. In March, however, Ball said the election of President Joe Biden made him more “confident” in the system, and he directed the Howard County Detention Center to terminate the contract.
T Per legislation passed by the County Council in December and signed into law by Ball, Howard County agencies are now prohibited from cooperating with ICE, making it a sanctuary county. The law will be on the 2022 ballot as a referendum after a petition from county residents garnered enough signatures.
This year, Ball’s original budget included a tiny increase in funding for the Howard County Public School System. He later added $4 million to the district’s budget, which was approved by the County Council last week.
When he ran for executive in 2018, Ball said he wanted to hold the school system accountable for its then-$40 million health fund deficit, which has beset the district for years and threatened the county’s AAA bond rating in 2019. Howard is one of only 49 counties across the country to have a AAA rating from all three credit agencies.
In the past year, Ball and school system leaders have worked together to reduce the deficit by $33 million, including $12 million in the past month.
For the police department, Ball’s plans to implement a body-worn camera program for officers is expected to begin next May after getting delayed during this year’s budget process. Additionally, as the Board of Education has debated whether or not to have school resource officers in the county’s secondary schools, Ball in April put his support behind keeping — but changing — the program that has police in some school buildings.
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For Ellicott City, which experienced the second of two fatal floods in a two-year span in 2018, Ball’s $140 million Safe and Sound plan, which will bore a calls for a large tunnel near Main Street and raze the razing of four buildings in hopes of easing future flooding, went into effect in May 2019. Last April, the county purchased the last of the 10 buildings on lower Main Street in the historic district needed for its mitigation plan.
When he first ran for county executive in 2018, Ball won the Democratic primary in a rout before upsetting Allan Kittleman, who was finishing his first term. Ball won the general election with nearly 53% of the vote, topping Kittleman, who was the first Republican to serve as the county’s executive since 1996, by about 8,100 votes.
Kittleman could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Steve Wilson, the Howard County Republican Central Committee’s chairperson, wrote in an email Tuesday that the county GOP is “looking forward” to the upcoming election.
“We believe voters are seeing why we need political balance in government,” Wilson wrote. “Right now we are divided by school redistricting plans, the removal of school resource officers, sanctuary county status and attempts to promote equity that instead raise the level of hostility between communities. Howard County needs leaders who can unite our diverse community and govern on behalf of all voters.”
Ball’s campaign coffers totaled almost $692,000 in a campaign finance report from January. He raised $383,000 in 2020.
As of Tuesday, Ball had not yet filed with the Maryland Board of Elections to run for reelection. No other candidate has filed either; the deadline to do so is Feb. 23.