In pivotal Baltimore County Council race, GOP hopeful faces questions over 2007 police report

In a Baltimore County Council race that’s being closely watched for its potential impact on the county’s political leadership, the Republican challenger is facing questions about a 2007 police report that details an alleged physical altercation with his then-girlfriend, now his wife.

Republican Ryan Nawrocki, who is running against incumbent Democrat Cathy Bevins in the November election for a council seat representing areas including Parkville, White Marsh and Middle River, was never charged with a crime in the incident, and says the claims in the report that he struck his girlfriend, pushed her down and choked her were an exaggeration to police.

“She said some things that weren’t accurate,” Nawrocki said. “There’s never been any history of abuse, violence, any of that stuff.”

The outcome of the 6th District race is important in Baltimore County, the state’s third-largest jurisdiction and a Democratic stronghold for decades. Democrats hold a 4-3 majority on the seven-member council, and Republicans are targeting the district as their best chance of gaining a seat — and potentially flipping the council to a GOP majority.

But questions about a protective order against Nawrocki have dogged his campaign, and police reports obtained by The Baltimore Sun indicate that in November 2007 his then-girlfriend twice told police that Nawrocki assaulted her during arguments.

In the first report, the woman told police that on Nov. 11, he pushed her down during an argument. He denied it and she was not injured, the report states. Five days later, she told police that during an argument at their Towson home, Nawrocki “hit her in the mouth, splitting her lip and then pushed her to the floor,” according to the police report. It also states she told police that Nawrocki “began to choke her and she had to dig her fingernails into his arms and back to make him let her go.”

A responding police officer noted that the girlfriend had “injuries to both her upper and lower lip,” and that Nawrocki was observed with injuries to his right eye, his forehead, his neck and other areas.

Neither was charged, and last week Nawrocki repeated his assertion that there was never any domestic violence. His wife, Lauren Nawrocki, also said in an interview that the police reports don’t represent what really happened.

“Ryan and I had gotten into an argument,” she said in an interview with The Sun. “We were young — 22, 23 years old — and just said things that shouldn’t have been said. And unfortunately it’s something that’s out there and, you know, we kind of have to deal with it now.

“There’s absolutely no abuse, there was no abuse. I said things in that report that I shouldn’t have said. We’ve moved on,” she said.

In April, a handful of women protested outside one of Nawrocki’s fundraisers, one holding a blown-up image of a Maryland Judiciary Case Search screen shot indicating a protective order against Nawrocki, according to a report in the East County Times. That image has circulated online for years, but the protective order no longer appears in the state’s online judicial search.

The order, filed by his wife before they were married, is mentioned in a case file regarding custody arrangements for the couple’s child when they were not together.

Nawrocki at one time had denied the existence of a protective order, but acknowledged it after the April protest. He says he had the order expunged, and in May a judge redacted several mentions of it from the custody file at the couple’s request.

In a post on his campaign website Nawrocki states that the protective orders — he had also filed one against his wife — had to do with custody arrangements when the couple “hit a bump in the road.”

He has also alleged that the protest was ginned up by Bevins’ campaign, a claim she denies.

In an interview, Nawrocki said: “I don’t think that this is unlike experiences that other people have had in terms of difficult breakups, where people go and file silly things in heated custody battles. I think that a lot of people probably experienced something similar in their lives as well.”

Lauren Nawrocki wrote a letter for a campaign mailer for her husband calling him a “loving husband and father to our four children.” The mailer states she won’t stand for “baseless lies about our family.”

Nawrocki, 35, said he knows “voters will form their opinion, of course,” but hopes they will focus instead on his pledges to support police, to reduce violent crime, improve zoning code enforcement and address overcrowded schools.

This year’s election is a rematch: Nawrocki lost to Bevins by about 500 votes in 2010.

A marketing professional who previously worked for the Maryland Transit Administration and is now is self-employed, Nawrocki said Bevins is in denial about crime and other problems in the district and is too cozy with developers in an area experiencing problems with growth.

Bevins said voters should return her to a third term on the council because she prioritizes constituent service. She said she and her staff have handled more than 6,000 issues brought to them since she’s been in office.

“I believe in an efficient government and strong constituent service,” she said. “That one-on-one helping people is special.”

Bevins, 59, said her accomplishments in office have included requiring background checks for volunteers with local recreation councils — something she said she had to fight then-County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and other council members to get approved.

If re-elected, she said she’ll work to add more Police Athletic League Centers in her district to serve at-risk children and continue to work to improve school facilities.

Bevins described the district as “purple” — a mix of blue Democrats and red Republicans.

The district is home to more than twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans, but its votes went overwhelmingly for Republican Larry Hogan in 2014, and by a narrower margin for Donald Trump in 2016.

That makeup lends hope to the GOP in targeting the district. Al Mendelsohn, chairman of the county’s Republican Party, said defeating Bevins “wouldn’t just be a victory for the Republican Party, it would be a victory for common sense.”

In addition to the council seat, Republicans are targeting a state Senate seat in the same area, putting up first-term Republican Del. Christian Miele against veteran Democratic Sen. Kathy Klausmeier. Bevins, Klausmeier and Del. Eric Bromwell are the only elected Democrats in the eastern half of the county. All of the other council members, state delegates and state senators representing the east side are Republicans.

There are contested races in five of the other six districts, however. In the 1st District, including Catonsville, Arbutus and Lansdowne, incumbent Democrat Tom Quirk faces Republican Al Nalley.

In the 2nd District, including Reisterstown, Pikesville and northwest communities, Democrat Izzy Patoka faces Republican Michael Lee for an open seat. Democrat Vicki Almond had represented that area, but ran for county executive and lost in the primary.

In the 3rd District, incumbent Republican Wade Kach faces Democrat Colleen Ebacher to represent Timonium, Hunt Valley and north county; and in the 4th District, encompassing Woodlawn and Randallstown, incumbent Democrat Julian Jones is unopposed.

The 5th District has incumbent Republican David Marks facing Democrat Alex Foley to represent Towson and Perry Hall; and in the 7th District, incumbent Republican Todd Crandell faces Democrat Brian Weir, Libertarian Doug Stanley and write-in Republicans Tim Fazenbaker and Dave Rader. The district includes Dundalk, Sparrows Point and Essex.

pwood@baltsun.com

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