Ronald E. Harvey, running a second time for the Democratic nomination for Baltimore County executive, is that rare breed of political candidate: He doesn't shake hands. "Just a habit of mine," he says.
With about three weeks to go until the primary, Harvey, 63, a Nottingham resident in the race with two four-term members of the County Council, has no campaign staff, no website or campaign literature — though he says those are in the works — and no inclination to show up at candidate forums. What he does have is a cause, and what he calls an "insider's view of county government" that he says would serve him well as a reform-minded county CEO.
Four years ago, Harvey was one of three contenders vying for the Democratic nomination against County Executive James T. Smith Jr., who took 77 percent of the vote but is prevented from running again this year by term limits. Harvey finished first among the also-rans, with 9 percent, garnering some of his best vote totals in predominantly African-American precincts, and those near where he lives and has spent his life.
In February, the 63-year-old bachelor retired as a personnel analyst from the county Office of Human Resources after 28 years with the department. The experience left him dismayed about the way he was treated and by the county's hiring and promotion practices, which he says have become increasingly politicized since the late 1990s during the administration of C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and continuing under Smith.
Harvey insists that personnel practices in his department were a mess, and that "what happened in Human Resources is an example of what's happening all around the county."
His views challenge the prevailing wisdom that gives Smith high marks for prudent administration.
In a deep, soothing voice suitable for a classical music radio station, Harvey can go into great detail about changes in personnel practices and policies. He points to the demotions of many employees, including himself, from supervisory to subordinate roles, the lowering of testing standards for new hires and the removal of checks on centralized authority over hiring.
The result, he contends, was a "political takeover of the merit system" and lower hiring standards.
"You're getting people who are good enough not to get fired," he says.
His friend and former colleague, Pam Boskind, a retired county human resources official, says Harvey was "very devoted, very knowledgeable" in his work, and that he would make a fine county executive.
"Ron would be the most honorable, the most honest man I ever met," says Boskind, who lives in the Idlewild neighborhood, near Towson. "I believe in him, his ethical standards and hard work."
Harvey, who was raised in White Marsh, has coached recreation league basketball and baseball. He graduated from Perry Hall High School in 1965, then went on to graduate from Morgan State University and the University of Maryland School of Law, though he never passed the bar exam.
It's hard to know how his arguments focused on one topic can translate into a campaign, as Harvey has done little to no campaigning. He says he expects to raise about $10,000 and now has about half that. The two leading candidates, Councilmen Kevin Kamenetz and Joseph T. Bartenfelder, have raised $1.4 million and $810,000, respectively.
"If you run a traditional campaign against someone who has a million dollars, you're going to lose," says Harvey, who filed the $25 fee to become a candidate at the Board of Elections in the late afternoon of the July 6 filing deadline.
"It's a quiet campaign," he says, but "I've been busy."
During the next few weeks, he'll observe such campaign customs as sign waving and handing out literature, but otherwise he says he'll pursue less-conventional tactics, getting the word out by talking to people he calls local opinion leaders, though he declines to identify them. He says he expects to have a website up any day now and is scheduled to appear Tuesday morning on the Larry Young show on WOLB Radio.
He says he has more volunteers than when he ran for county executive in 2006. He says he did little campaigning then.
"I'm fairly well known in the county," he says.
Asked how he's going to make a go of this campaign, with just a few weeks to go, he says, "It'll be a sprint."
Ronald E. Harvey
Occupation: Retired Baltimore County personnel analyst
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