Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. and three council Democrats have promoted and pumped money into two competitive primary campaigns for the County Council’s open seats — a realtor and first-time candidate and a delegate pivoting from Annapolis.
Two seats are up for grabs because the incumbents — Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, who represents Middle River, Rosedale and Bowley’s Quarters in the 6th District, and Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents the 1st District that includes Catonsville, Arbutus and Lansdowne — aren’t running for reelection.
In the redrawn 6th District, which now includes Towson, Olszewski, Bevins and council chair Julian Jones have thrown their political muscle behind Shafiyq Hinton, 30, a commercial and residential realtor. He has banked big donations from area real estate law firms and other businesses since he entered the race in mid-April.
Hinton is facing Towson insurance broker Mike Ertel, 56, and small business co-owner Caitlin Klimm-Kellner, 33, of Overlea, community leaders who have years of experience advocating for their neighbors on school, public safety and land use issues.
In the 1st District, Olszewski and Quirk endorsed Del. Patrick “Pat” Young, a Marine veteran who served in Iraq before being elected to the State House in 2015. The legislative district that Young, 39, represents in Annapolis includes areas of the 1st District, and he sees an opportunity on the council to implement policies, including one related to school construction, that he helped pass as a state representative.
Young is running against Catonsville resident Paul Dongarra, 52, who wants to undo what he describes as the county’s “pay-to-play” system, and Danielle Singley, 40, who chaired the Randallstown NAACP’s task force to revamp Security Square Mall.
“Both of those council races are extremely competitive,” said Republican Councilman David Marks, who represented Towson for more than a decade when it was in a different district.
While the July 19 primary election day draws closer, voters are weighing “the value of having an independent County Council,” Marks said — one that isn’t “subservient to any county executive.”
Hinton entered the Democratic primary for council just before the mid-April filing deadline. He launched a run last year to represent the 6th legislative district in the Maryland Senate, but decided to run instead for a local seat after his Middle River residence was drawn out of the legislative district. Hinton said Olszewski, who campaigned with Hinton during the Senate bid, encouraged him to refile for council.
Knocking on doors during the senate race, Hinton said he realized “that 98% of the issues are local.”
“If you really want to make an immediate impact on your community, it’s going to be in local politics,” he said.
If elected, Hinton wants to create local incentives similar to Maryland’s mortgage program for low-income families who want to buy their first home in the county. He wants more police officers in schools. And he supports the Historic East Towson neighborhood in its lawsuit against an affordable housing development it says is too big, as the county works to meet its obligation under a federal consent agreement to build 1,000 more affordable units by 2027.
Hinton, who is also a health care technology salesman, entered the council race with almost $35,000 leftover from his state senate race. Hinton campaigned for a seat in Annapolis with Olszewski and Bevins prior to his council bid, and both endorsed him shortly after he refiled.
During a May campaign announcement, Olszewski said Hinton’s background as a small business owner and new father gives him “the experience and perspective to strengthen our communities” and schools.
Jones, who represents the western 4th District, contributed $6,000, the maximum donation allowable, according to campaign finance reports. Between April and June 7, Hinton amassed almost $61,000 from donors — nearly twice what he brought in between January 2021 through mid-January 2022 when he was running for senate.
Hinton’s top donors include land use law firm Smith, Gildea & Schmidt; Chesapeake Realty Partners, which is building the massive mixed-use Honeygo Village in Perry Hall; and Middle River Medical Ventures, a limited liability company that owns vacant property on Middle River Road, where a proposal to build an $11 million substance abuse treatment facility is expected to be developed by Towson-based Caves Valley Partners if it receives the necessary county approvals.
Ertel, who advocated for the interests of more than two dozen Towson community associations for several years, is Hinton’s biggest primary opponent. He wants to add vocational programs for high schoolers and help improve educational outcomes, which he says is key to the county’s financial sustainability.
For years, Ertel led the organization now known as the Towson Communities Alliance, and has worked to combat school overcrowding and push for school infrastructure improvements. He’s also a vocal critic of changes to land use regulations that lead to incongruous development. Ertel, a Towson resident, won the 2010 Democratic primary for County Council, but lost to Marks in the general election.
Ertel said his advocacy would lend him a nuanced perspective as a council member. He said he would be sensitive to concerns of district communities like Historic East Towson, one of the county’s oldest Black enclaves.
“The neighborhood isn’t opposed to affordable housing,” he said, noting they’re opposed to the size of the project and that it’s being built in one of the most affordable parts of the county seat on the edge of “one of our few predominantly-Black neighborhoods.” Wealthy communities elsewhere have thwarted subsidized housing, Ertel said.
He also wants to invest in new technology, like robust camera or firearms discharge detection systems, in downtown Towson to bolster public safety in response to multiple shootings that have occurred in recent months.
Ertel and Hinton are divided on reforming the Office of the Inspector General which Olszewski created in 2019; he later tried to impose several restrictions on its investigatory powers. The county created a commission to recommend changes to the IG’s office, like whether to establish an oversight board.
Ertel said the office, headed by Inspector General Kelly Madigan, needs no supervision, and that he’s heard no county citizen say they’re “concerned that the IG has too much authority.”
Hinton told The Baltimore Sun that he was open to a separate person overseeing the ethics commission to give the Inspector General “more time to focus on government inefficiencies.” The commission reviews financial disclosures and investigates whether county employees have violated public ethics laws.
Ertel is closing out the primary with almost $44,450 in his coffers. Klimm-Kellner, the only woman in the race, who worked to address school and land use issues as former president of her community association, has more than $1,950 in on-hand cash.
A third Democratic candidate, former Prince George’s County educator Preston Snedegar, 68, filed an affidavit in June that he neither raised nor spent more than $1,000 during his campaign.
Young chairs the Baltimore County House delegation, serves on the state House Appropriations Committee and chairs a joint committee on managing public funds.
Young, who is also the House deputy majority whip, worked on legislation to protect students elected to the county Board of Education and created a state-level commission to make it easier for veterans to enroll in higher education, modeled after an ad hoc group he formed when he directed Towson University Veterans Services.
If elected, the Westchester resident said he’s well-positioned to put state dollars — especially funds made available for school construction through the Built to Learn Act, which he helped craft — to equitable use.
Young wants to invest in aging corridors like Security Boulevard. He’s excited by the legislature’s approval this year authorizing the formation of a West Baltimore County Redevelopment Authority, which would advise the county on eminent domain with the goal of revitalizing targeted areas.
“This is the first time the county can play a role in the redevelopment of an entire area,” Young said. “I don’t think there’s anyone better poised than me to help implement it.”
Young’s staunchest opponent, self-described “smart growth” development activist Dongarra, has for years protested sprawling development and zoning changes that threaten southwestern green space, and has been quick to point out when council decisions fall out of line with the Master Plan, the county’s zoning guidebook.
“What I see happening in the county with the pay-to-play system [is] developers getting their way in land use decisions that benefit them and leave our communities poorer,” Dongarra said.
The Catonsville resident, who owned an event catering business, exposed a prominent Catonsville developer by reporting him to state prosecutors about a decade ago for making illegal campaign contributions to Quirk, who was never accused of a crime.
If elected, Dongarra wants to eliminate tax increment financing assistance (a tool by which municipalities issue bonds to help fund private projects), create pedestrian-friendly pathways, and consider whether to reinstate the county’s stormwater management fee once levied against property owners. The stormwater fee paid for pollution reduction projects in the Chesapeake Bay before it was phased out in 2017.
Young is nearing primary election day with roughly $97,660 in the bank — almost three times as much as Dongarra. Singley, the only woman in the race, had less than $590 in her campaign coffers, according to campaign filings.
Dongarra has criticized Young for receiving thousands of dollars from other Democrats and political clubs.
Young said the support reflects relationships built over eight years in the House. All constituents are treated equally, regardless of whether they are donors, he said.
“I can promise that’s the way I’ve run my office the last eight years,” Young said. “It just comes down to trust.”