Kamenetz Tops Holt for County Executive
The 52-year-old Democratic County Councilman declares victory over his GOP rival. Ken Holt not giving up quite yet.
UPDATE (1:09 a.m.)—Kevin Kamenetz had the name recognition, the political support and the money in his race for Baltimore County executive.
In the end, that combination was too much for Republican Ken Holt to overcome as Kamenetz, a Democrat, appeared to become the 11th Baltimore County executive tonight at 10:45. Kamenetz will also become the county's first first Jewish executive.
"We're very comfortable that we won," Kamenetz said. "I'm grateful to have had a spirited debate with Ken Holt and have a great discussion of ideas. Now I welcome everyone to come together and work for a better Baltimore County. We have a big tent and welcome anyone to come in it."
Holt, however, was not giving up.
"We're checking the numbers and things are tightening," Holt said shortly after 11 p.m. to his supporters at the Williamsburg Inn. "Some of the western districts are just getting tabulated. Once those numbers come in we will know just where we are. ... At this point it is too close to call. ... I think this will be a later-night process"
By 1 a.m., however, Holt finally conceded defeat and congratulated Kamenetz.
"It was definitely a David and Goliath" situation, Holt said. "And I think we came within a whisper of success."
Kamenentz wasn't whispering when the 52-year-old councilman appeared in front of dozens of excited supporters at the Pikesville Hilton to declare victory just before 11 p.m. With 130 of 228 precincts reporting, Kamenetz had 75,358 votes, or 52.3 percent. Holt had 68,397 votes, or 47.5 percent.
The win caps a 16-year journey for Kamenetz, an Owings Mills resident and attorney, who was first elected to the County Council in 1994. The married father of two boys will take over for Jim Smith, who is barred by law from seeking a third term.
The general election took on a much different tone for Kamenetz than his primary battle against fellow County Councilman Joe Bartenfelder. While Kamenetz spent much of the primary attacking Bartenfelder's record, he focused more on his accomplishments and vision for Baltimore County in campaign ads in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 2 general election.
While Holt, 59, an investment banker from Kingsville, picked up some momentum in the last few months, he did not have the fire power to keep pace with Kamenetz.
The last campaign finance report required before the general election, covering a period between the Sept. 14 primary to mid-October, showed Kamenetz had a cash balance of $352,733. By comparison, Holt had a cash balance of $219,153.
Also during the most recent filing period, Kamenetz reported raising $348,019.92 and spending $263, 349.
Holt raised $169,710 and spent $70,010.
As county executive, Kamenetz pledges to follow through on campaign promises, which includes making county government more efficient through improved technology and maintaining the county's relative fiscal health. There have been no layoffs or furloughs of county employees during the recent economic recession.
"Campaigning is a great experience because it forces you to get out and go to areas that you don't normally go to and listen and learn. That's what I've done the last 18 months," Kamenetz said. "I'm looking forward to putting into action a lot of the ideas and thoughts people have given me and turn them into goals and opportunities."
However, there are plenty of issues that will need Kamenetz's attention once he takes office. This includes dealing with the potential of the state shifting some of the burden of teacher pension costs onto local jurisdictions. Also, the county entered this fiscal year having to close a $150 million deficit and could face financial troubles in the next fiscal year.
"Fortunately, I've been a part of the budgetary process for the last 16 years so I understand the process and I've helped push through some of the prudent decisions that Baltimore County has done to get us into the shape we are in today.
"I'm going to continue to make sure we have a fiscally well-managed county government but also look for ways to do more with less and ways we can deliver more efficently and at less cost."
Kamenetz will also be dealing with an almost entirely different County Council with five new members being elected tonight. However, Kamenetz will have at least one ally early in his administration in Councilman John Olszewski Sr.
The Democrat, who represents Dundalk, Essex and Rosedale ran unopposed in seeking his fourth term tonight. Olszewski went against the political tide of much of his district during the primary when he backed Kamenetz over Bartenfelder.
"It's something that if I had to do it all over again, I would," Olszewski said. "Kevin Kamenetz is the right man at the right time to move Baltimore County forward through tough economic times.
"I've worked with him on the Council for 12 years. I've seen his vision and seen his leadership and I stand here today proud to call him my county executive."
Holt's loss was a disappointment for local Republican leaders.
"Good fiscal leadership, fairness and integrity" are what Holt has to bring to county government, said Woody Wood, past communications chairman for the county Republican Central Committee.
Holt campaigned in Randallstown most of Election Day and said voters were open to his ideas, even though the area is traditionally dominated by Democrats.
"The voters are really terrific," he said, after leaving Randallstown High School in the afternoon. "We get excellent voter response. I have to tell you that it was a very welcoming group and I just had a very good feeling, some of our economic development ideas for the Liberty Road corridor are really speaking to them. ... They don't want some of the same old status quo politicians."
The more than 200 supporters gathered at Williamsburg Inn on Pulaski Highway Tuesday night and into the early Wednesday applauded as Holt entered the cozy but spacious main dining room.
Holt smiled brightly as he greeted each supporter individually.
"I think he is a wonderful guy," said Sandy Lamartina of Perry Hall, one of his most active volunteers. "He will be very reasonable, honest, and I think he would be an asset to the county." Lamartina spent 12 hours on election day holding a Ken Holt sign at a polling place, urging voters to elect Holt. And after 12:30 a.m. today, she was still at the inn, supporting her candidate.