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Elections

Two veteran Baltimore County Council members are leaving, including the only woman. These candidates want their seats.

Two longtime Baltimore County Council members are stepping down this year — including the council’s only woman — and voters in this summer’s primary election will choose from a field of candidates who hope to take their place.

Education, public safety and development are top issues in the campaign, but some candidates also are talking about the role of money in politics and trust in government.

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Councilwoman Cathy Bevins and Councilman Tom Quirk, both Democrats first elected in 2010, are not seeking reelection. Their terms end in December. Hopefuls in the two districts include political newcomers and candidates who have tried before.

The July 19 primary will follow newly drawn districts, after a contentious redistricting process. Last year, community and civil rights groups sued the county over its redrawn map, saying it illegally diluted Black residents’ votes. A federal judge ordered and later accepted a revised county plan.

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The general election is set for November.

District 6 candidates

Five candidates are running in District 6, now represented by Bevins — the most of any council district in the county. The new district will cover the populous Towson area, currently part of another district, and include the communities of Parkville, Rosedale and Overlea.

Candidate Mike Ertel, 55, a longtime community activist who lives in West Towson, said crime is the No. 1 issue on voters’ minds as he knocks on doors.

Public schools’ performance, the environment and improving recreational opportunities are also topics emphasized by Ertel, who touts his experience with neighborhood groups. Over the years, he’s worked on community issues such as school overcrowding and development and says he has the experience needed for the job.

“I’ve done a lot of the community work,” said Ertel, an insurance broker and former president of the organization now known as the Towson Communities Alliance. “I know the drill already.”

Ertel won the 2010 Democratic primary for County Council, but lost in that year’s general election to current Councilman David Marks, a Republican.

Shafiyq Hinton, 30, is a real estate agent and health care sales representative. His top issues include public safety and supporting small businesses, but he says everything “starts with our schools.” Good schools strengthen neighborhoods, he said, making them safer.

The son of a firefighter, he vowed to advocate for more resources for county first responders.

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“This is an opportunity to serve the community that I grew up in,” said Hinton, who’s from Parkville and now lives in Middle River.

Hinton has the backing of Bevins and County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., who announced in May they were endorsing him. He’s brought in the most campaign money by far, with more than $90,000 in his account as of mid-June. That’s nearly three times the amount in Ertel’s campaign had at that time.

Caitlin Klimm-Kellner, 33, a graphic designer and photographer who lives in Overlea, is the only woman running in the district. She entered the final stretch of the campaign with just over $3,000 on hand, and said she won’t accept campaign money from developers.

“It feels good on my conscience,” Kimm-Kellner said. “My campaign is community centered. For me, it’s about making sure that the people that I would represent feel like they wouldn’t be overshadowed by a developer.”

Klimm-Kellner said it’s essential women have a voice on the council. She supports more funding for the inspector general’s office, which she says helps increase trust in local government, and wants to create a civilian-staffed engagement office to expand the police department’s community outreach efforts. As a former president of her community association, she worked on issues like schools and zoning and wanted to run because many people feel “unheard” by local government.

Preston R. Snedegar, 68, of Rosedale, is also running as a Democrat in District 6. In his responses to The Baltimore Sun’s voter guide, Snedegar said he believes the current council lacks integrity and the county government lacks “financial controls and procedures.”

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Tony Campbell, 56, a Towson University political science professor, is the only Republican running. He was an organizer of the ReOpen Baltimore County effort to protest local government orders that shut down businesses in 2020 because of COVID-19.

Campbell’s top campaign issues include addressing violent crime and government corruption. He says there needs to be more transparency from county schools, too.

“There is no accountability,” said Campbell, who lives in the Glendale-Glenmont area of Towson.

District 1 candidates

In the southwestern corner of the county, District 1 includes Arbutus, Catonsville, Halethorpe, Lansdowne and Woodlawn.

Candidates Paul Dongarra, Pat Young and Danielle Nicole Singley are vying for the Democratic nomination.

Dongarra, a Catonsville resident who owned a special events company, speaks of what he calls campaign money’s “corrosive effect on government.” On his website, he touts that he tipped off the state prosecutor to illegal contributions made by a developer to county politicians. The developer, Steve Whalen, pleaded guilty in 2013 to violating state election law.

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Dongarra, 52, said he supports “smart growth” development that builds upon existing infrastructure and emphasizes walkability.

“A lot of our environmental problems are coming from our development patterns, which maintain the reliance on the automobile,” said Dongarra, whose platform also includes supporting the county’s inspector general.

He has criticized Young for campaign contributions from developers and other “special interests.” Young had more than $144,000 in his campaign account as of mid-June.

Young, a Catonsville resident endorsed by Olszewski and Quirk, is a Marine veteran who served in Iraq. In the General Assembly, he led committees on cybersecurity, public funds and personnel.

In response to Dongarra’s criticism of his campaign contributions, Young said he has a broad coalition of support.

“I wish it wasn’t necessary,” he said of political fundraising. “But I have to reach 120,000 people.”

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A state delegate since 2015 and chair of the county’s delegation in Annapolis, Young, 39, said he wants to use his experience to help people on a more local level. He said he has helped constituents get answers in frustrating situations, from sorting out unemployment claims during the pandemic to addressing street paving and potholes.

“I hope to bring that sort of accountability … to let folks know their government is working for them,” he said.

Singley, 40, a program manager with the county aging department, said her work and personal experience would bring a needed perspective to the council. Singley chaired a Randallstown NAACP task force on revitalizing Security Square Mall. She also draws on her experience as a mother to a child with special needs.

Several factors led her to run, including the only woman leaving the council and the redistricting process.

“There’s never been someone from north of [Route] 40, the Woodlawn area, that has ever sat on the council,” said Singley, who lives in Westview Park. “We have never had a person of color, a woman councilperson in my area.”

Local government skews its attention and resources toward affluent communities, with systems “set up so that certain groups just have a bigger voice,” Singley said. She wants to address the political disengagement affecting many residents.

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Al Nalley, 71, of Catonsville, faces no competition in the Republican primary. His platform includes removing “wokeism” from school curriculum and getting a new fire station in Catonsville.


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