State Sen. Allan Kittleman described himself as an independent voice for Howard County residents as he officially announced his campaign for county executive Tuesday in front of more than 250 supporters at Clyde's in Columbia.
"I assure you that with me, what you see is what you get," he said. "I am not your typical politician."
Kittleman, a West Friendship Republican, is the first candidate to announce a run for county executive in 2014.
His expected opponent, Howard County Council Member Courtney Watson, said Friday that it is likely her decision on a county executive run will be made public early this fall, depending on the workload before the council between now and then.
"I don't want to be distracted from the once-in-a-decade work before the council now," Watson said, referring to the county's comprehensive zoning.
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, who last week became the running mate of Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, is term-limited, preventing a run for county executive in 2014.
During a 15-minute address to his supporters, Kittleman, 54, said his priorities for the county are education, solving transportation issues, fostering economic development, and assisting county residents who are suffering.
"As I speak to Howard County residents, they tell me that they want elected officials to put aside partisan politics and do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do," Kittleman said. "I have consistently demonstrated that I will stand up and speak out in support of issues when it may not be the politically expedient thing to do."
Kittleman received the endorsements of three state senators at the announcement, including Baltimore County Democrat Bobby Zirkin, Frederick County Republican David Brinkley and Carroll County Republican Joe Getty.
"For most people, having a D or an R in front of your name doesn't make you what you are in politics, it's the character, it's the content of your character and it's what you believe in," Zirkin said. "Allan Kittleman is an independent, hard working, tremendously caring individual down in Annapolis and everybody down there knows it."
Kittleman said the support of his Senate colleagues is indicative of his tenure in Annapolis.
"I think that what it says is that I am a person who works with everybody in the Senate, I don't simply say I'm going to work with the Republican caucus," he said.
If elected, Kittleman would be the first Republican County Executive in Howard since Chuck Ecker held the office from 1990 through 1998.
About 48 percent of the county's 203,230 registered voters are Democrats, with 29 percent identifying as a Republican and 21 percent identifying as unaffiliated.
Kittleman was not worried about his ability to win Democratic votes, citing his past two elections where he received more than 60 percent of the votes in what he described as a "very even" district of Democrats and Republicans.
"People in Howard County have a long history of voting for the person, not the party," he said.
Kittleman served as a county council member from 1998 through 2004. He has served in the Senate since 2004, when he was appointed to succeed his father, Bob Kittleman, after his father's death.
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Del. Gail Bates, a West Friendship Republican, said Kittleman is the right choice for Howard County because of his experience on the council and in the Senate.
"He sees both sides, and I think he can be very effective as county executive," she said.
Bates said she will announce her candidacy for Kittleman's former Senate seat after July 4.
Watson said Tuesday that she is giving a run for county executive "very strong consideration."
"I'll be making that decision soon, but I can't give you an exact date," she said.
Kittleman said he looks forward to the race regardless of who the candidate is.
"I have longstanding relationships with a lot of the Democrat office-holders here, and I'm sure it will be a very positive campaign and one that I look forward to," he said.