In Howard County, Ball and Kittleman no longer cuddle

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball (D). Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

After Democrat Calvin Ball defeated Republican incumbent Allan Kittleman in the 2018 Howard County executive race, Kittleman traveled to Ball’s election night in Colombia, and the two candidates went hugged.

However, they are not kissing now. Instead, they are engaged in an increasingly bitter rematch.

“Did Ball and his staff knowingly break the law?” reads an article in the news section of Kittleman’s campaign website. Another article states “On school safety ‘Calvin Ball failed our children!'”

Ball largely ignores those accusations — and tries to tie his opponent to two Republicans who are unpopular with most Howard County voters, President Trump and Del. Dan Cox (R-Frederick), the GOP candidate for governor.

“My Republican opponent is taking a page from the Trump/Cox Republican playbook and waging an extremely negative campaign to distract from quality of life issues,” Ball said in an interview. “I really try to focus on the issues. I think people care more about our records than rhetoric.

The fiery campaign shows the two candidates on opposite sides on issues including inflation and the economy, public safety and education funding. Meanwhile, Ball brags about his record and Kittleman points out that he is the “grassroots” candidate.

“It’s definitely an interesting race because it was tight last time out,” said Joanne Drielak, who teaches political science at Howard County Community College.

Democrats hold a substantial lead in voter registration in Howard County, with 122,194 Democrats registered through September, compared to 49,372 Republicans. There were also 57,367 unaffiliated voters.

Allan Kittleman (right), former Howard County Executive. Photo by Bruce DePuyt.

Still, Howard has proven to be a stellar bellwether in the state’s last two election cycles. In 2014, Courtney Watson (D), then a member of the county council, was considered the favorite for the county’s open executive seat. But in what turned out to be a bad year for Democrats nationally and in Maryland, Kittleman, who was then a state senator, won, taking 51.2% to 48.7% for Watson.

Four years later, Kittleman, a rare moderate Republican, looked like a shoo-in for a second term, but the national political winds were blowing in favor of the Democrats, and Ball, then a county board member, ousted him, 52 .8% to 47.1%.

Calvin’s Ball

Ball, the incumbent, says he’s proud of the work he’s done for Howard County over the past four years. He eagerly touts his accomplishments — particularly the county’s “historic investments in education” — that have occurred under his tenure.

“I’m very proud of our work and hope we can continue to build on our progress over the next four years,” he said.

During Ball’s tenure, the county increased special education funding, educator salaries, and funding for school construction. This includes funding the construction of High School 13, Howard County’s first new high school in over a decade.

Ken Ulman, Democrat and former Howard County executive before Kittleman, said Ball’s record was strong.

“I think County Executive Ball should continue to focus on the county’s accomplishments over the past four years – progress, investment in education, and it’s a great place to raise a family and have a business.” , Ulman said.

Ball said he recognizes that Kittleman is campaigning negatively about him, although he hasn’t responded to any claims or criticisms Kittleman has made against him on social media or on his website.

“I think when you see a party making significant attacks, it usually indicates they need to catch up,” Ulman said. “And when you see someone staying focused on their work and quality of life, it’s usually a result of a stronger position.”

Allan Kittleman

Kittleman, a Republican who runs as a self-proclaimed ‘independent leader’, has focused his campaign on his opponent’s alleged missteps – which he said prompted county residents to ask him to run .

“I can tell you that I hadn’t planned on running,” said Kittleman, who took a job in state government after losing his re-election bid. “But people from the community came to see me.”

Kittleman said he followed Ball’s tenure “from a distance.”

According to Kittleman, people came to him with concerns about public safety, education, high taxes and the cost of living. However, Kittleman said one of the biggest issues facing the county is school safety. He said he was “very concerned” about Ball’s recommendation to remove school resource officers from colleges last April.

“It’s hard to learn anyway these days, but you really have a hard time learning if you’re worried about whether you’re going to be safe in school,” he said.

Kittleman’s “day one plan” would reinstate school resource officers at the college. This plan also includes proposals to reduce taxes and support law enforcement, among other policies.

“Allan Kittleman is running a campaign based entirely on local issues and what he can do for the Howard County community. What I’ve seen is people appreciate it,” said Robert Flanagan, a Republican and former Howard state delegate.

Flanagan said that unlike 2018, Kittleman decided to keep the scope of the issues within his local campaign. Flanagan and Kittleman hope that tactic will resonate with voters in Howard County.

Campaign Status

While Ball clearly rode the Democratic national election wave four years ago, there are “a lot of different variables this time around that weren’t there in 2018,” said Drielak, the political scientist.

“Now we face more inflation, which we didn’t have in 2018. The economy is different. We’re also post-COVID, so that’s something people definitely have in mind . »

She said she wasn’t surprised that both contestants focused on education.

“[There are] quite a large number of [concerns] concerning education. Redistricting of SROs, public safety and security,” Drielak said. “There is also a race in the Board of Education and they are linked, which is why I think it comes up quite frequently.

The rising national crime rate and environmental issues will also likely be present in the race, she said. Locally, there are completely different issues facing the county, and Drielak has noticed that they come up quite frequently.

The two candidates have taken starkly different approaches to fundraising — and have worked to make those differences apparent in their campaigns.

“For the first time in the history of our country, we have a public campaign finance program, and I’m the only one using it for the county executive race,” Kittleman said.

Kittleman is referring to the Citizens’ Election Fund, which provides county matching funds to candidates and encourages small donations from voters instead of large donations from developers and other special interests.

Although he chose to participate in the program for his current campaign, as county executive in 2017, Kittleman vetoed legislation that was to establish the Citizens Election Fund. It was passed in 2019 under Ball. However, Ball opted out of the program.

“Shifting our fundraising and financial structure from 2018, when we really had to create the Citizens’ Election Fund for it to be a viable system, that just wasn’t feasible,” Ball said. “I’m really happy that now Mr. Kittleman sees the light of our program.”

Under the program, Kittleman can only accept donations up to $250 and cannot accept donations from special interests, resulting in what he calls a “grassroots” campaign.

“This is by far the largest grassroots campaign in our county’s history,” Kittleman said. “We now probably have over 1,700 individual donors to our campaign.”

Kittleman’s campaign accused Ball of accepting contributions from some developers that exceed the legal limit for an election cycle.

As of Aug. 23, Ball had just under $900,000 in his campaign account and Kittleman had $631,421. Kittleman said he received matching funds of $608,740 over the summer.

Early voting begins Thursday and will be open until November 3. Early voting is available during the ballot Pitches throughout the department every day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.