Baltimore County Council member Joseph Bartenfelder's campaign for county executive got a lift Thursday night as members of the Metropolitan Baltimore Council AFL-CIO, representing thousands of workers in more than 184 locals, voted to support and make working for him a "priority" in his race for the Democratic nomination against chief opponent and fellow council member Kevin Kamenetz.
Baltimore City State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy also got the nod as she tries to hold off a Democratic primary challenge from former federal prosecutor Gregg Bernstein.
Meeting at council headquarters near Lansdowne, about 150 delegates voted to designate three contests as "priority races," said council President Ernie Grecco, meaning the locals will be urged to devote as many resources as possible to staffing phone banks, handing out literature, posting signs and working the polls. Those three are the races involving Gov. Martin O'Malley, who will likely face former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in November; Speaker of the House of Delegates Michael Busch, who is facing challenges in District 30 from three Democrats and three Republicans; and Bartenfelder's race with Kamenetz.
"We feel those races could be close" and deserve particular attention, Grecco said.
The council voted endorsements in local races through its territory, including Baltimore City and six counties: Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Howard, Harford, Carroll and Cecil. The council also agreed on endorsements in statewide races other than the gubernatorial contest that will be passed to the Maryland & DC AFL-CIO, which is expected to make its endorsements on July 20. The council endorsed O'Malley in May.
The vote for Bartenfelder caps a series of endorsements from AFL-CIO-affiliated locals in the past few weeks. Kamenetz has the endorsements of the Laborers International Union of North America, which is affiliated with the council, and the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, which is not. A significant labor endorsement yet to come in the executive race will be the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4, which is not expected until late this month or possibly next.
Grecco said the vote for Bartenfelder by the delegates was not unanimous, but it wasn't close. Endorsements require a two-thirds majority.
"The big thing, I guess, some of the unions had already made early endorsements" for Bartenfelder, Grecco said. "The other unions knew that."
Grecco said Bartenfelder, who like Kamenetz has been on the County Council since 1994, has a reputation for being supportive to labor both on the council and during his 12 years as a state delegate.
Grecco said the vote for Jessamy was unanimous and taken after little discussion. He said the panel conducting candidate interviews was impressed with her presentation, and many union members and officials have gotten to know her in her 15 years in office.
"I don't take anything for granted," Jessamy said in an interview after the meeting. "I did not suppose it would be automatic."
She said she gave union officials a half-hour presentation this week, including her work to fight violent crime and her support for an interfaith program that teaches character to young people. Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts