Former Delegate and Annapolis alderman Herb McMillan launched his campaign for Anne Arundel County Executive on a muggy Wednesday night at a fundraiser, where he lambasted current County Executive Steuart Pittman for higher taxes and his handling of the pandemic.
McMillan, a Republican, retired from public service in 2018, saying he was tired of Republican and Democratic leadership and ready to spend time with friends and family. But he decided to return because “our freedom is in jeopardy.”
“I’m running for County Executive because it’s your money, because it’s your party and because it’s your government,” McMillan said in a copy of his speech provided to The Capital before its delivery.
McMillan has represented the Annapolis area in some fashion since he was a member of the Annapolis City Council from 1997 to 2001 representing Ward 5. He moved to the House of Delegates in 2003, serving one term before leaving office. He won office again in 2011 and stayed until 2019, when he declined to run for reelection. He is a commercial pilot and graduated from the Naval Academy.
McMillan will have to defeat at least one other Republican contender in the primary next year, and if he does, he is likely to face Pittman. County Councilwoman Jessica Haire plans to launch her campaign next week. Pittman announced his plan to seek a second term months ago and is the only Democrat currently seeking the office.
The former delegate has not been shy about criticizing Pittman’s economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our county’s fiscal and economic decline cannot be blamed on a disease,” McMillan said. “Because while the disease was bad, the so-called economic cures our county executive has prescribed for economic recovery are worse.”
The COVID-19 pandemic caused waves of shutdowns worldwide, including here in Anne Arundel County, where the County Council gave Pittman emergency powers to curb gatherings and close buildings. Shut-downs and coronavirus restrictions across the United States hurt businesses and cost jobs as public officials sought to limit how fast the virus spread. More than 600 people in Anne Arundel have died of the virus.
Pittman proposed the Non-Profit Economic Development Recovery Grant Program to assist non-profit organizations affected by the pandemic earlier this year. He also launched a program to provide grants of up to $10,000 to restaurants and foodservice businesses in the county.
The grant expanded to include food service workers who experienced financial hardship due to loss of tips and wages during the pandemic. The county executive used county emergency funds along with federal stimulus money to pay for these programs. Pittman did raise the property tax rate in h and the income tax in his first budget, but not in the budget currently being considered.
“Pittman’s taken more money out of every family’s paycheck, with higher property, income, rain taxes, and fees, during a time when they needed it most,” McMillan said. “Now, like a dog chasing its tail, he’s calling for progressively higher income taxes and higher taxes on property sales as part of his economic recovery program.”
McMillan was also vocal about his thoughts on the county executive’s support for not opening public schools sooner, while religious or private schools opened their doors in the fall.
The Anne Arundel County Board of Education and superintendent set policy on school reopening, based on the recommendations by the county health officer appointed by Pittman. Schools are currently in a hybrid of remote and in-person classes but are scheduled to reopen fully in August.
“Private and religious schools followed the science and were part of the solution,” McMillan said. “They safely delivered in-classroom education to their students.”
As students and faculty prepare for summer vacation, county public schools report that 558 students and 98 faculty members have tested positive for the virus since March, and 12 students in the county are currently in quarantine after testing positive.
Richie Petitbon is the son of former Washington, D.C., football team defensive coordinator by the same name. He said he was invited to the event personally by McMillan himself.
Petitbon coached alongside McMillan at the Peninsula Athletic League and said he supports him because he is a family man who has done a lot for his community. Like McMillan, he said schools should have opened earlier.
“I just believe that as you look forward now, you see different things that are happening throughout the country like in Florida, like in Texas where schools never closed, where they were always open,” Petitbon said.
Both Florida and Texas closed schools though elected officials in those states advocated for quick reopenings.
McMillan said the country is engaged in a political battle at every level of government.
“For freedom, against a socialist agenda that would strangle it.,” McMillan said. “We cannot afford to place the outcome of this battle for freedom in the hands of inexperienced machine politicians.”