Baltimore County’s Changing Of The Guard

BY BARRY RASCOVAR / July 25, 2012

(A version of this article ran in the Carroll County Times online on July 24)  

You’d think every 50 years or so it would be nice to change faces in Annapolis.

Well, it will be 52 years before Dundalk’s favorite political son, Sen. Norman Stone, finishes his 13th term representing Baltimore County and departs the State House for the last time.

The changing of the guard in Baltimore County is led by Sen. Norman Stone, retiring after 52 years.

Stone will be missed. He was a dependable vote for Senate President Mike Miller and Democratic governors, a rock of support for organized labor and one of the few remaining conservatives in the Democratic caucus who acted as a counter-weight to the group’s liberal majority.

Baltimore County is losing many of its other right-of-center legislators next year, too.

On the west side of the county, Delegates Jimmy Malone and Steve De Boy of Catonsville-Arbutus have announced their intentions to retire as has Emmett Burns of Woodlawn-Randallstown.

Both Malone and De Boy have grown in stature over the years. They are constructive, hard-working lawmakers who have not forgotten their blue-collar roots. They are liberal on some social issues but conservative on fiscal and other matters.

Malone, a retired firefighter, is vice-chairman of the House Environmental Matters Committee and a voice for moderation in leadership ranks. De Boy, a retired police officer, sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee where he has voted for sensible budget reductions that do minimal harm to people in need.

MORE WESTSIDE DEPARTURES

Burns, too, has cast some conservative votes, especially on gay rights and immigration issues that the ordained minister fiercely and loudly opposed.

Also in that part of the county, Del. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam of Woodlawn-Randallstown has decided to give up her seat to challenge incumbent Sen. Verna Jones-Rodwell of Baltimore City in a re-drawn district that is two-thirds in the county and just one-third in the city. This should give Nathan-Pulliam, who has represented the county portions of the new district for 20 years, a strong advantage.

Moving to the northwest section of Baltimore County, Del. John Cardin of Owings Mills-Reisterstown is running for Maryland attorney general, creating an open seat in the June 2014 primary. Jon Cardin’s hopes may rest on voters’ fondness for his uncle, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, a fixture in Maryland elections since 1966.

Another State House departure will be north-county Del. A. Wade Kach, a quiet, studious conservative Republican first elected in 1974. Redistricting forced his hand. He’s leaving Annapolis to run against County Councilman Todd Huff, whose term in the Council has been marred by a drunk driving conviction and his attempts to use his position to avoid the consequences.

EASTSIDE CHANGES

Over on the eastern end of Baltimore County, Del. John Olszewski Jr., whose father-namesake sits on the County Council, is leaving the House of Delegates to run for Stone’s Senate seat. He has Stone’s endorsement and is the odds-on favorite.

Baltimore County's changing of the guard in Annapolis includes the departure of Sen. Norman Stone and his likely replacement by Del. John Olszewski Jr.

Olszewksi, 31, would be quite different in the Senate from the 78-year-old Stone. Yet both are reflections of their historic steel-town community.

Stone is a throwback to a bygone era. He got his start in 1962 when he was asked to run for the House by Michael “Iron Mike” Birmingham, the eastside boss who became Baltimore County Executive after voters approved home rule.

Stone served a single term in the House and an extraordinary 12 terms in the Senate. Ever-friendly, gracious and polite, Norman Stone is an ardent backer of labor unions. His votes reflect the cautious nature of his district’s older residents.

Olszewski also votes in line with his district’s residents most of time. But he comes from a “green” generation that is dedicated to environmental causes. In the last General Assembly session, the League of Conservation Voters gave Olszewski a 71 percent rating versus Stone’s 40 percent.

The departure of so much seniority in Annapolis will make it more difficult for County Executive Kevin Kamenetz to leverage the next administration for local aid and assistance on important county projects.

While new legislative faces in the county’s state delegation may bring added enthusiasm and eagerness, this won’t make up for the loss of decades of experience in navigating the tricky twists and turns of political Annapolis.

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