Crime and public education were among the top issues Tuesday night as the two Republican candidates for Baltimore County executive faced off at an Essex forum.
State Del. Pat McDonough and state Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer Jr. appeared at Stemmers Run Middle School for an event sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Baltimore County.
The league is planning a May 2 forum for Democratic candidates for county executive. The primary election is June 26.
Here are six highlights of the Republican forum:
1. Crime was a big topic.
Redmer said crime and education are his top priorities “and everything else comes in third.”
“We cannot fix any problem in Baltimore County until we get at crime and until we get at education,” he said.
McDonough told the crowd he would have “zero tolerance” when it comes to crime. He said he would be a leader with “independence” and “courage.”
“I will never permit this county — and this is the courage factor — to become Baltimore City,” McDonough said to applause. “Never.”
2. Both candidates support more police in schools.
Currently, each county middle and high school has at least one uniformed school resource officer, but they are not in elementary schools.
McDonough said he wants to see “armed law professionals in every school in Baltimore County.”
Redmer said he supports school resource officers at the elementary level, too.
Both men said the schools need to toughen their policies on student discipline.
“There is no discipline in Baltimore County,” Redmer said. Right now, he said, “if little Jimmy beats up little Johnny, they’re going to put them together and ask them how they felt about it and how they can make it better.”
McDonough said that if he is elected, “the student conduct code will be tough. You do something wrong, you will pay the penalty.”
3. McDonough attacked Redmer about his state post.
Throughout the evening, McDonough attacked Redmer for issues related to his job as insurance commissioner. He accused Redmer of having a conflict of interest by running for office while serving as the state’s chief regulator of the insurance industry.
“I think you should vacate your job,” McDonough told Redmer.
Redmer brushed off the criticism as “Pat being Pat.” He has previously said that he is declining to accept campaign donations from insurance companies and agents.
4. They were both critical of the board of education.
“That school board is the school board that appointed Dallas Dance,” McDonough said, adding that he filed an ethics complaint against Dance several years ago.
Dance was sentenced last week to six months in jail after pleading guilty to four counts of perjury.
Redmer said that too often, the school board has not operated with transparency. And he said the schools have “the wrong priorities” on spending.
“We have spent millions and millions of dollars to give every kid a digital device which too often is nothing more than an electronic babysitter,” Redmer said. “At the same time, the county has failed to invest in basic infrastructure.”
5. Redmer touted his experience and endorsement from Gov. Larry Hogan.
Redmer said he has the most “executive-level experience” of anyone running for county executive, as he leads an agency with 240 people and a $32 million budget. He also pointed to his endorsement from Gov. Larry Hogan. He said that if elected, he would work across the aisle and would create “the right government culture.”
6. McDonough described the county as corrupt.
McDonough called aspects of county government “corrupt.”
“A lot of people in Baltimore County don’t even know that there’s a political machine, a bunch of special interests and insiders,” he said.
If elected, he said, he would order a review of county government with an eye toward reorganization — because he claimed it is now full of “cronyism and corruption.”
“There are a lot of people in Baltimore County government that have a job because they’re related or they know somebody,” McDonough said.