Five Republicans seeking to be the next Anne Arundel county executive spoke before a packed house in Odenton Thursday, with the county council just days away from voting to appoint a successor to John Leopold.
The candidates included a state delegate, a former first lady, a former Marine and businessman, a former state trooper, and a past head of the county’s Department of Recreation and Parks. They represented more than half of the nine candidates who have publicly stated an interest in the position, though potential candidates can apply until noon Friday.
By law, all of the candidates are Republican and live in Anne Arundel County. Those that spoke Thursday included:
Kendel Ehrlich—an attorney and former first lady of Maryland
Steve Schuh—A restaurant owner and state delegate from Pasadena, representing District 31
Patrick Jameson—A former state trooper who later helped lead a business unit of Oracle. He ran for county sheriff in 2010
Thomas Angelis—A former director of the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks, currently an English teacher in Baltimore City; previously he was a police officer and also ran twice for county executive
James Wilhelm—A Naval Academy graduate and former Marine; now a businessman, he ran for Congress in 2010
The candidates spoke at the West County Area Library in an event hosted by the West County Republican Club. Sen. Ed Reilly (R-District 33) served as the moderator.
It was revealed Thursday night that current Acting County Executive John Hammond will also seek the job. Councilman Dick Ladd (R-District 5) said Hammond called him just before the meeting to convey his interest. Hammond served as Leopold’s chief budget officer then administrative officer until Leopold resigned.
Ladd reported that other possible candidates include businessman Rick Hoover, former house candidate Derick Young and physician Ron Elfenbein.
The county council will hold a meeting on Feb. 21 to vote on candidates. The winning candidate must receive at least four votes from the council.
If members of the council were to find reasons to prefer one candidate over another, they would likely have to look at their background and experience rather than opinions on policy. On questions relating to education, taxation and other matters, the panelists offered little to separate themselves.
All said they supported keeping the county’s property tax cap in place. All but one—Angelis, the Baltimore City teacher—said they preferred to see an elected school board. All said they would probably allow any pending legislation to pass. And all sought to cast themselves as ethically strong in comparison to Leopold, who resigned in January after a judge found him guilty on two counts of misconduct.
“I, like many of you, have been embarrassed by the headlines and sordid details of the activities that have been going on,” Ehrlich said. “I think it is not dispositive, but significant that we have a woman in this race. I think that the activities that were going on were embarrassing and put the female employees in a position that is really unspeakable as a boss. One aspect of this race is that I can bring instant unity and credibility back to the county.”
The candidates did differ in their answer to one key question: If they were appointed, would they seek to run again in 2014? Ehrlich, Angelis and Wilhelm said they would not seek to be elected by voters. Jameson and Schuh said they would.
Ehrlich said that by choosing not to run in 2014, she would not be beholden to special interests, and could simply work to bring the county back to stable footing before handing it off to the next executive. Schuh said that by choosing to run, he’d be more accountable to voters.
Councilman Peter Smith (D-1st District) attended the forum and indicated that the council may prefer a candidate looking to run in 2014. However, he stressed that he was open-minded about each person and would seek to meet with them individually before voting.
“I do think that someone who is running may have a little bit of a edge, because the county and the community has the ability to hold them accountable. But that won’t sway me from voting for someone who isn’t running in 2014, especially if they have good policies and perspectives they want to implement.”