The Baltimore County teachers union has yet to officially unveil its endorsement for Baltimore County executive, but it’s already stirring controversy within the Democratic primary.
Both Vicki Almond and John Olszewski Jr. say Almond won the coveted Teachers Association of Baltimore County endorsement at a meeting of union representatives Wednesday night, though the organization has not publicly announced its pick for the race.
Following the meeting of the union’s Representative Assembly, the Olszewski campaign issued a statement calling the vote “compromised” and “razor thin.”
The union now says another meeting is planned for next month to review the endorsement.
Olszewski, a former county teacher, noted past payments that Almond’s campaign committee has made to The Beytin Agency, a Democratic direct-mail company run by TABCO President Abby Beytin’s son. He also cited campaign contributions Beytin herself made to Almond.
Campaign finance records show that Friends of Vicki Almond paid the Arlington, Va.-based Beytin Agency roughly $54,400 in 2010 and $4,180 in 2013, when Almond was running for County Council.
Abby Beytin contributed $200 to Friends of Vicki Almond in 2015 to and $75 in 2016, records show.
In an interview, Olszewski also said people who attended Wednesday’s meeting told him representatives raised concerns about whether a quorum was present.
Abby Beytin did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. Glen S. Galante, the union’s executive director, said the Olszewski campaign did not accurately portray what happened at the meeting.
“There were many inaccuracies in his press release,” Galante said. “We’re not going to get into them with the press, but we are going to discuss them with members.”
Galante said a vote did occur Wednesday, but would not confirm the results. He said another meeting is scheduled for April 11, after which the endorsement will be announced.
“TABCO has decided to have another Representative Assembly where the endorsement for county executive will be reviewed,” Galante said.
The primary election is set for June 26. Almond, Olszewski state Sen. Jim Brochin and Kevin Marron are vying for the Democratic nomination. On the Republican side is Del. Pat McDonough and state Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer.
Almond, a county councilwoman from Reisterstown, said Thursday she has long advocated for public schools. She said she has not used the Beytin Agency since 2013.
“I believe that I won the endorsement fair and square and that [Olszewski] is just very disappointed that he didn’t,” Almond said in an interview. “I know all the education issues because I’ve been an advocate for 30 years … I think my experience is what qualified me to get the endorsement.”
Almond was a longtime community activist before being elected to the County Council in 2010. She served as president of parent-teacher associations of Franklin Middle and High schools.
Her campaign website says she supports expanding pre-kindergarten, the school-resource officer program and school meal programs.
Olszewski, a former state delegate, said education has been his “top priority.” He was a student member of the county school board and taught at Patapsco High School & Center for the Arts.
“My entire life and career has been focused on expanding educational opportunity,” said Olszewski. He has advocated for universal pre-kindergarten, free community college, universal school meals, better school buildings and hiring more teachers and social workers.
Patpasco High teacher and Olszewski supporter Sandie Skordalos said she and other teachers at her school have questions about the TABCO endorsement process. Skordalos ran against Beytin for TABCO president last year and is a volunteer for the Olszewski campaign.
”Teachers weren’t even consulted over who they wanted to support,” she said. “I just wish the process was something that could be trusted. I am frustrated. I don’t understand how a teachers’ organization doesn’t support the teacher.”