Early Monday morning, volunteers planted Republican campaign signs in the grass around the Boulevard Diner, a popular restaurant along Merritt Boulevard in Dundalk.
Black signs for Gov. Larry Hogan alternated with bright yellow signs for Baltimore County executive candidate Al Redmer Jr.
As the rain poured down, state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling led a small and soggy crew that waved signs at passing commuters, encouraging them to vote for the Republican candidates. Inside the diner, Redmer and Hogan shook hands and chatted up diners as they enjoyed their bagels and pancakes.
“The response has been fantastic,” Redmer said. “We’re doing well and we’re doing well throughout the entire county.”
Nine hours later, it was Democrats who took over the intersection, with county executive candidate Johnny Olszewski Jr. wrapping up the final day of campaigning before Tuesday’s general election with his own sign-waving entourage during the evening rush hour.
Olszewski’s white signs were planted in between and in front of the Redmer signs outside the diner. Holding an umbrella in one hand, Olszewski waved to beeping motorists with the other hand. He was joined by U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and local Democratic candidates.
That the two county executive candidates decided to visit the same spot in Dundalk for the final day of campaigning is no accident. The Boulevard Diner is an institution in Dundalk, and the intersection of Merritt Boulevard and Wise Avenue is one of the community’s busiest traffic spots.
On top of that, the diner is a favored hangout of Republican politicians — Hogan has visited multiple times and even then-candidate Donald Trump stopped in when he was campaigning in 2016.
Residents of Dundalk and eastern Baltimore County often say that they feel overlooked by the county government headquartered in Towson.
But for the first time in decades, eastern Baltimore County residents will be assured that one of their own is leading county government — no matter who wins the election. Olszewski hails from Dundalk, while Redmer, who grew up in Perry Hall, now lives in Middle River.
Olszewski lives just two miles from the diner. “For me, it will always have a special place in my heart,” he said of his hometown.
Roger Hayden, a Republican who served as county executive between 1990 and 1994, had eastside roots, having graduated from Sparrows Point High School. But Hayden had moved to Baldwin in north county by the time he was elected.
Dennis Rasmussen, a Democratic county executive from 1986 until 1990, was from Essex.
The current county executive, Don Mohler, is from Catonsville. He is completing the term of the late Kevin Kamenetz. Kamenetz, who was county executive from 2010 until his death in May, was raised in Lochearn and lived in Owings Mills.