Republican Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman stepped into gubernatorial politics this week, criticizing Democratic candidate Ben Jealous for his mention of the destructive May 27 Ellicott City flood in a fundraising email.
“Is it hot where you are? Did the Ellicott City floods (for the second consecutive year, mind you) affect your home, or your loved ones?” the Jealous email soliciting campaign donations read. “Are you worried that they’re doing nothing — nothing — just down the street in D.C. to address our obvious environmental crisis? I know I am. But I also know that we don’t have to wait for Washington — we can do this state by state, city by city.”
Ellicott City’s most recent deadly floods were in 2016 and over this year’s Memorial Day weekend and came after torrential rainfall inundated the streams and rivers that flow into Ellicott City.
“I’m disappointed to see that Ben Jealous is using the Ellicott City floods as a partisan fundraising ploy,” according to a Tuesday posting on the Facebook page of Kittleman’s campaign. “That’s simply not how we do things in Howard County We've stood for unity, not division. We've stood for people, not politics as usual.”
Kittleman, who is seeking a second term as Howard’s top leader and has aligned himself with incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, called on Jealous to donate money raised from the emails to the Community Foundation of Howard County Relief Fund for flood victims.
When asked about the posting, Jealous’ campaign shot back that Kittleman was hypocritical since his own campaign website, which accepts donations, also mentions the flood.
“The truth is, tragedies like this can be prevented with responsible development and investments in resilient infrastructure,” Jealous campaign spokeswoman Jerusalem Demsas said. “Those are the types of investments Ben will make as governor, and his e-mail simply pointed that out."
Hogan campaign spokesman Scott Sloofman said the campaign has never mentioned the Ellicott City flood in an email soliciting donations.
Kittleman’s campaign has not donated any of its funds to Ellicott City flood relief, nor has it mentioned the flood in fundraising solicitation emails, according to campaign spokesman Sean Murphy.
Murphy said Kittleman has been active in relief efforts and regularly encourages people to donate their own money to flood relief efforts, particularly the Ellicott City Partnership. The campaign has also turned what would have been campaign fundraiser events into Ellicott City events and has cancelled or postponed fundraisers to maintain a focus on flood recovery, according to Murphy.
Addressing flooding in Ellicott City emerged as an issue in this year’s County Council primary, as residents and politicians grapple with how to fortify the historic town and who to blame for allowing development that they claim contributes to serious flooding.
Some say May’s flood, which killed a National Guardsman, was a reason Jon Weinstein, who represents Ellicott City in District 1, lost in the Democratic primary to newcomer Liz Walsh. Walsh, an attorney and civil engineer, made flood mitigation a focal point of her campaign.
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On the state level, the topic came up during a May 30 Democratic primary debate, when all candidates said the state should help provide relief funds to the town.