Baltimore County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina is retiring from his 5th District seat after 20 years of service. The five-term Democrat's departure has resulted in a fiercely competitive Democratic primary to replace him on the party's ticket in November's general election.
Three Democrats—Mike Ertel, Gordon Harden and Bill Paulschock—are fighting it out for the Sept. 14 primary.
The winner will face Republican David Marks to win the right to represent a district that stretches from Perry Hall to Towson.
Here's a brief overview of the candidates and the race.
Candidate: Mike Ertel
Family: married to Anne; the couple has three children
Current position: Commercial insurance broker with the Jacobs Company in Columbia
Other professional qualifications: Former president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, member of state Sen. James Brochin's health care task force, chairman of the Urban Design Principles Subcommittee for Tomorrow's Towson, coach for the Parkville and Towson recreation councils.
Major endorsements: State Sen. James Brochin, Teachers Association of Baltimore County
Proposals and platforms: Use Towson University and other institutions to push economic development, crack down on rental codes and neighborhood issues, address school overcrowding
Mike Ertel, a longtime community activist, is making a first-time run for County Council. He touts his experience as a community leader and unique perspective from growing up in the city and graduating from what is now Towson University.
The Towson resident enters the final stretch with a balance of $21,876 in his campaign account, according to state records.
Ertel has stepped up the fight in the race by aggressively challenging his Democratic opponents. He led a challenge, which the Board of Elections ultimately declined to take up, against Paulshock's residency. He even posted a YouTube video that details that Paulshock is using his business address to maintain residency in the district, even though he lives with his family outside the district.
In an interview, Ertel dismissed candidate Gordon Harden's planning board experience as a "rubber stamp for county government." Harden has hit back with a mailer that states Ertel does not share the priorities of average Towson residents because he has supported the construction of a members-only swimming pool.
Family: married to Kathy
Hometown: Owings Mills
Current position: Member of Baltimore County Planning Board since 1996
Other professional qualifications: Retired insurance agent
Major endorsements: County Executive James T. Smith Jr.
Proposals and platforms: Prop up small businesses, promote fiscal responsibility, redevelopment
Gordon Harden was a member of the Baltimore County Planning Board, which helps draft and recommend the county's budgets. This is his first run for elected office. His wife, Kathy, operates Souris' Saloon at the Towson Circle.
Maryland Board of Elections records show that Harden has more money–$29,363– in the bank than his two rivals with only about a week left before the primary.
But he also has County Executive James T. Smith Jr.'s endorsement, which could prove far more lucrative given Smith's campaign account balance of nearly $1 million.
Harden, who lives in Towson, has been running on his experience with the planning board as proof that he knows how county government works and that he would continue Smith's conservative fiscal policies.
"I want to take my experience and keep the county moving forward until this recession is over," Harden said. "I don't want citizens paying more taxes. I want more citizens paying taxes."
Patch revealed that for years Harden chose not to pay his taxes, resulting in more than 30 tax liens filed against him by the Maryland and federal tax agencies.
Candidate: Bill Paulshock
Family: Married to Mindy Paulshock. The couple has a son and two daughters
Hometown: Perry Hall
Current position: Owner of Bill's Seafood and Catering Company
Years in current job: 31
Other professional qualifications: Worked with the Belair Road Advisory Committee, volunteered with the Perry Hall Recreation Center, involved with the Seafood Marketing Advisory Commission
Major endorsements: Baltimore County Licensed Beverage Association; Baltimore County Federation of Public Employees; Baltimore County Professional Fire Fighters Association, Local 1311; United Food & Commercial Workers Union, Local 27; Plumbers & Steamfitters, Local 486; and the AFL-CIO.
Proposals and platforms: Fostering public education, cutting back on the "red tape" that regulates small businesses, limiting his term to a maximum of eight years and not accepting a county vehicle if elected
In Perry Hall, Paulshock is best known as the owner of Bill's Seafood and Catering Company, one of the community's longest standing seafood distributors. Paulshock lists his business as a residence, which generated controversy when word spread that his primary residence is located in Kingsville, outside of the district's boundaries.
He has never run for political office, nor has he ever worked for state or federal government. Heavily endorsed by labor unions, he embraces his standing as a political outsider and small businessman. His campaign account reported a balance of nearly $30,000, outpacing his rivals.
His campaign philosophy is to put people first and focus on local issues.
Candidate: David Marks
Family: Married to Stephanie Marks, a son and daughter
Hometown: Perry Hall
Current position: Consultant on transportation issues for the state and federal government
Years in current job: 14
Other professional qualifications: Worked several years to resolve transportation and zoning issues within state and federal government, served as the President of the Perry Hall Improvement Association for nine terms, Vice-Chairman of the Baltimore County Historical Trust, Co-Founder and member of the Friends of the Perry Hall Mansion and Co-Founder and volunteer for the Perry Hall Community Concerts
Major endorsements: Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police, Baltimore County Community Political Action Committee
Proposals and platforms: Working to reduce overcrowding in schools and traffic congestion, stimulating private investment, increasing spending transparency and encouraging bipartisan cooperation, establishing term limits for members of the council council, establishing a directly elected Baltimore County Auditor and a directly elected Baltimore County Board of Education
Marks literally wrote the book on Perry Hall. It's called "Crossroads: The History of Perry Hall, Maryland." He boasts several years of experience dealing with transportation and zoning issues at the federal and state level.
He is running unopposed in the primary election and his campaign has raised roughly $48,000. His influence and popularity in Perry Hall is apparent. He has been knocking on doors and sounding his message of smaller government and bipartisanship throughout the district since April.