Democrat John Olszewski, Jr. announces his intent to run for the open Baltimore County Executive seat. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

There's a lot at stake in the June Democratic primary vote for the Baltimore County executive. The county faces big, pressing issues: crowded and deteriorated schools in need of a lot of money for renovation or replacement, older communities along the Baltimore Beltway in need of public reinvestments, and an out-of-touch government in need of modernization.

Of the three Democratic candidates running for county executive, only one has put these issues front and center in his campaign: John Olszewski Jr.


Mr. Olszewski is the only candidate to explicitly and thoroughly stand up for the county's schoolchildren, its working families, and its distressed communities. He's the only candidate to put the glaring need for more transparent and accountable government at the forefront.

Senator Jim Brochin announces his candidacy for Baltimore County executive. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)

His track record as state legislator for nine years shows he walks his talk: Mr. Olszewski was the original sponsor of the recently passed state legislation to expand earned sick leave and the author of the state's nationally-recognized job-training program known as EARN. He cast a deciding vote for passage of the state's marriage equality act.

The Baltimore County Progressive Democrats Club — a Democratic Party affiliate dedicated to advancing policies at the local, state and federal levels that put people first — has overwhelmingly endorsed Mr. Olszewski for county executive based on these core positions:

Of the five people running to become the next Baltimore County Executive, state Sen. Jim Brochin's campaign has the most money on hand.

Education: Mr. Olszewski is the only county executive candidate seeking universally available pre-kindergarten classes, free school breakfast and lunch for all, expanding schools into community-service centers, and a 21st-Century school building program like the $1-billion Baltimore program. He was the first county politician to call for tuition-free community colleges, more school counselors and social workers, and building new Lansdowne and Dulaney high schools.

Jobs and economic development: Mr. Olszewski consistently has supported the fight for a statewide $15-an-hour minimum wage. To grow jobs, he wants to create new public-private partnerships, such as the successful Tradepoint Atlantic project. He favors a community-first approach to development that invests in the county's main streets and focuses on redevelopment of aging communities, and he's opposed the county's troubling pattern of developer handouts. Significantly, he backs the HOME Act, barring landlord discrimination against renters with housing vouchers — a step toward lessening the county's concentrated poverty pockets.

Transparency and accountability: This has been a centerpiece of Mr. Olszewski's campaign. He's proposed a county, small-donor option for financing political campaigns, much like that used by Montgomery County and set to begin in Howard County — to address the outsized political influence of developers. He was the first to call for moving County Council work sessions to the evenings so more citizens can attend and for holding budget hearings all around the county. He wants an independent audit of the county public schools' finances.

In this year’s elections across the nation, voters have the opportunity to set things straight by electing lawmakers who will stand up to the NRA and enact sensible gun laws. In Baltimore County voters, the choice is between Jim Brochin and Johnny Olszewski Jr. in the county executive race.

There's another issue worth noting here that lately has been interjected by one of the other candidates, state Sen. James Brochin: gun control. It's an important issue for most of us, but controlling guns is a state and federal matter and not under the control of the Baltimore County executive. And the truth is that neither Mr. Olszewski nor Mr. Brochin can take pride in their legislative records on gun control.

In the state legislature, Mr. Olszewski voted against gun control measures. He says he erred and notes that good leaders hold themselves accountable for their mistakes. On the other hand, Mr. Brochin holds himself out as a paragon of political courage for having voted for certain gun control bills — even though at times he's actually worked against such measures.

Knowledgeable gun-control advocates say Mr. Brochin worked very hard to water down the 2013 Firearm Safety Act. He also opposed in a legislative conference committee last year making carrying a gun on a Maryland college campus a crime. And oh, yes, Mr. Brochin has taken contributions from the National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund, while Mr. Olszewski has never taken an NRA cent, according to Maryland's campaign finance database.

The Baltimore County teachers union has yet to unveil its endorsement for Baltimore County executive, but it’s already stirring controversy within the Democratic primary.

So it turns out that while Mr. Brochin clearly hopes his Trump-like dissembling on this highly-charged issue might sway voters, it reveals him as just another pandering politician we cannot trust. Meanwhile, Mr. Olszewski continues to show his concerns are our concerns: better schools, better jobs and better government accountable to all county residents.

Sheila Ruth (Sheila@sheilaruth.com) is the founder and past president of the Baltimore County Progressive Democrats Club and is running for County Council from county District 1. Scott Holupka (Scott.Holupka@gmail.com) is a member of the club's board of directors.