With the departure of longtime Democratic incumbents Tom Quirk and Cathy Bevins of districts 1 and 6, the Baltimore County Council will have at least two new members after next month’s election.
The race in District 1, located in the southwest corner of the county, pits Democratic state Del. Pat Young against Republican Al Nalley, a Catonsville retiree and former small-business owner.
In District 6, which wraps around Baltimore City’s northeastern corner, it’s Towson community activist Mike Ertel, a Democrat, versus Republican Tony Campbell, a Towson University political science professor.
A victory from Nalley or Campbell would change the political balance of the council, where Democrats currently have a 4-3 majority.
This year’s election also seems likely to leave the council without any female members for the first time since 2010, since all of the remaining incumbents are male, as are the four candidates vying for the two open seats. Two women are running, but against incumbents with significantly more campaign cash.
Fresh calls for a more diverse council arose during this year’s redistricting process, when civil rights groups sued the council, arguing there should be a second majority-Black district in the county, which is 31% Black. Ultimately the council redrew the districts to the satisfaction of a federal judge, but without a second such district.
Following a recent pay increase, the County Council president will make $77,000 annually, and other members will make $69,000 starting in December.
Between Ertel and Campbell in District 6, the race seems particularly close based on fundraising data. Both candidates had about $20,000 as of the last campaign finance reports, in August. The next reports are due Friday.
Both have run for political office previously but fallen short. Ertel lost to current Councilman David Marks in 2010, but this year’s redistricting process moved Ertel into a new district. Republican Campbell squared off unsuccessfully in 2018 against U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat. Campbell, who served in the Bush administration, also ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for the Baltimore County executive in 2014, and for the Baltimore City Council president in 1999.
Ertel has about 17 years of experience on the Towson Communities Alliance, dealing with issues from development and zoning to overcrowded schools. He also served eight years on the Community College of Baltimore County’s board of trustees. He said a focus of his campaign is improving the county’s constituent services.
“That’s really what I say at the door: I want to make sure that we tackle some of these quality-of-life issues that you have here in the neighborhood,” Ertel said. “Everything from potholes to trash, crime, rats, school problems, problem rental properties.”
Among his campaign goals, Campbell said he would focus on reducing crime in the 6th District by providing additional resources to the police department. He expressed concern about the department’s leadership following the county police union’s vote of “no confidence” in police Chief Melissa Hyatt.
Campbell, who is Black, said he would bring a needed perspective to the council, which currently has one Black member in Julian Jones.
“My campaign has the best shot at moving that needle as far as diversity,” he said.
Both Campbell and Ertel have expressed support for expanding the council by shrinking the size of the districts and welcoming new representatives.
In District 1, Nalley faces a larger fundraising gap. He’s up against Young, who had about $47,000 available as of the last reporting. At that point, Nalley had spent just $1,000.
Nalley, who grew up in the Lansdowne area, said he’s hoping to attract more development to that region, which he considers an oft-forgotten “stepchild” of the county.
On education, Nalley is vocal about stopping what he considers “indoctrination” in public schools. Elementary school teachers, in particular, should not be speaking with students about their gender identities, he said.
“It’s totally unacceptable. They have no business for what goes on at home,” Nalley said.
On policing, Nalley takes issue with his opponent’s vote in the legislature to repeal the law enforcement bill of rights. The repeal of that law leaves officers increasingly vulnerable to “trivial lawsuits,” Nalley said.
Young could not be reached for an interview for this article.
In districts 4 and 5, Democrat Crystal Francis and Republican Kim Bryant are hoping to unseat incumbents and prevent the first all-male Baltimore County Council since 2010.
That year, Bevins and Vicki Almond were elected to become the first two women to serve on the council simultaneously. Sixteen years of an all-male County Council preceded them.
Francis is facing Republican Marks, who has served on the council since 2010. When elected, Marks was the first Republican to represent many neighborhoods in District 5 in over 40 years.
According to campaign finance reports from August, Marks had more than $200,000 on hand, compared with $9,000 for Francis.
During a forum Monday night, Francis highlighted the diversity she would bring to the council as its first-ever Black woman. Francis spoke about how she used “education to pull our family out of poverty,” gaining a doctorate and researching policy changes to address the root causes of problems like poverty.
Marks spoke about the need for bipartisanship on the council, and spoke frequently about the need to slow excess development in the eastern part of the county, including at the C.P. Crane power plant and LaFarge quarry sites.
In District 4, Republican Kim Bryant is up against Jones, a Woodstock Democrat on the council since 2014. He has served as chairman three times.
As of his most recent campaign finance report, Jones’ campaign had $48,000 in the bank. Bryant had not raised or spent more than $1,000 for her campaign.
In an interview, Bryant acknowledged that the odds aren’t in her favor, but said she’s hopeful that voters seeking change will notice her passion for improving the county as a whole. Finding candidates with that passion, she said, should be more important than the council’s gender balance. Bryant works for the state Department of Assessments and Taxation.
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Democratic Councilman Izzy Patoka, who has been in office since 2018, faces a challenge in District 2 from Republican James Amos.
In District 3, Councilman Wade Kach, a Cockeysville Republican, faces Paul Henderson, a teacher based in Sparks.
District 7 Councilman Todd Crandell, a Republican, faces two challengers: Justin Holliday, a teacher who serves on the Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee, and Libertarian Doug Stanley.
All the incumbents maintained strong fundraising leads over their opponents as of the last round of campaign finance reports.