From left, candidates Johnny Salling (left) shakes hands with… (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore…)
Campaigns on Baltimore County's east side are still in full swing, but one outcome is already certain: For the first time in nearly half a century, voters get a new state senator.
Democratic Sen. Norman Stone, who took office in 1967, is retiring from the General Assembly. Fellow Democrat John Olszewski Jr., currently a state delegate; Republican Johnny Ray Salling, a steelworker; and unaffiliated candidate Scott Collier are competing to replace him.
Stone, who entered the Senate the year Spiro Agnew became governor, is its longest-serving member. The district includes Dundalk, Edgemere, Essex, Rosedale and Fort Howard.
Salling and Collier say voters want change — and that Olszewski, a delegate since 2006 and the son of a longtime county councilman, represents the political establishment.
Olszewski, who leads the Baltimore County House delegation, says he is the only candidate with a proven record.
Salling, 53, making his first run for office, has tried to tie Olszewski to Gov. Martin O'Malley, whom he blames for burdensome taxes and fees.
Local voters are "fed up, they're tired, they want a change," Salling said. "They see the taxes and the fees, and they see the loss of jobs."
Olszewski, 32, said he is "not a cookie-cutter Democrat," and has stood up to the party on tax increases and other issues, with votes against increases in the gas and sales taxes, for instance. He also opposed the repeal of the death penalty and was against O'Malley's gun-control legislation.
Olszewski supported the minimum-wage increase, and also sponsored unsuccessful legislation to require employers to offer workers paid sick leave.
"I'm a fighter for the middle class and working families," Olszewski said. "I'll deliver, and I've proven that I can deliver for the district."
Olszewski had more than $142,000 in his campaign account at the last filing deadline. Salling had less than $250; Collier has signed an affidavit saying he doesn't intend to raise more than $1,000.
Salling, a steelworker for three decades, says the closing of the Sparrows Point mill in 2012 affected him personally. While he still works at Lafarge, he said it's been "heart-wrenching" to see his friends lose their careers.
"They have exhausted their unemployment, they have been trained for other jobs, but they can't find a job," he said.
He says he would repeal the "rain tax" — a state fee assessed on property owners to help fund efforts to clean the Chesapeake Bay. "We have to be friendly to business," he said.
Olszewski says his opponents don't have any specific ideas for attracting jobs to the area, which has suffered the loss of manufacturing and other business. He says he would foster private-public partnerships, use tax credits to lure employers, and focus on the revitalization of Sparrows Point.
Stone, 79, called Olszewski "the logical choice" to succeed him.
"He's been in the job and he takes the job seriously," said Stone, who spent four years in the House of Delegates before his election to the Senate.
"It's going to be hard for me not to run, but I think it's probably time. I'm going to miss it. You can't do something for 52 years and not miss it."
Collier, 51, an advocate for brain-injury victims who runs a YouTube channel called "Dundalk TV," has campaigned largely on his opposition to the county's sale of the North Point Government Center to developers, which he believes was a bad deal for taxpayers.
Salling also opposes the sale. Olszewski says it was a matter for county officials to handle, not state lawmakers.
Although the east-side voter rolls are dominated by Democrats, the area has drawn interest from state Republican leaders, who say Stone's retirement and other open seats give them an opportunity to make inroads.
The contest comes amid other generational shifts in Dundalk politics. Olszewski's father, John Olszewski Sr., is stepping down from the Baltimore County Council after four terms, setting off a heated contest for his seat.
And with the younger Olszewski seeking another office and longtime Democratic Del. Sonny Minnick retiring, the House delegation from the district will also have new faces.
Six candidates are competing to fill the district's three House seats.
Incumbent Del. Mike Weir Jr., who has been in the House since 2003, is seeking re-election. Democrats Nick D'Adamo, a former Baltimore City councilman, and Jake Mohorovic, a delegate from 1995 to 2003, also are running.
Three Republicans are in the race: Bob Long, a community activist and business owner who ran in 2010; Robin Grammer, who works in information technology; and Ric Metzgar, who is general manager of G&W Motors and has run for the seat twice.
John Olszewski Jr.
Experience: Former teacher; delegate since 2006
Johnny Ray Stalling
Experience: Steelworker for 30 years
Family: Separated; five children, two stepchildren
Experience: Advocate for traumatic brain-injury victims; founder of "Dundalk TV" YouTube channel
Family: Divorced; two stepdaughters