A recent Goucher College poll shows Gov. Larry Hogan with a 62 percent approval rating, even though Maryland is a heavily Democratic state. The survey also indicates that 35 percent of registered Democrats will likely or definitely vote for Hogan, a Republican.
But Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz recently became the seventh Democrat announcing his intention to replace the current governor.
“I am the best Democrat in this race to take on Larry Hogan and take back the state from the likes of [President] Donald Trump and [U.S. Attorney General] Jeff Sessions,” he said when declaring his candidacy on Sept. 18.
A Lochearn native and lifelong Baltimore County resident, Kamenetz, 59, has served more than 23 years in elected office, including four terms as a Baltimore County councilman and two as county executive. He is also president of the Maryland Association of Counties.
Jmore recently caught up with Kamenetz to discuss his gubernatorial aspirations.
Jmore: What are the biggest problems in Maryland, and how will you address them?
Kamenetz: Right now under Gov. Hogan, Maryland is standing still. Nothing is happening in education, work force development, the environment and transportation issues. We need more long-term policy investments that will help move our state forward. We need results.
As Baltimore County executive, for example, I’ve improved schools. Our schools were overcrowded with kids in trailers, along with outdated and crumbling buildings. We’ve invested $1.3 billion to build 16 new schools, plus 15 additions and renovations, putting children in modern educational environments.
My goal is to be the education governor this state needs, based upon my track record of real results.
We’ve protected the environment in creative ways. For example, we’re putting solar panels on enclosed landfills, saving Baltimore County $20 million over the next 25 years by avoiding costs while reducing our carbon footprint.
We’re the only county in the state that owns a recycling center, and we’re operating it so efficiently that we’re generating $1.5 million per year back into the county coffers. We’re showing that we can save the environment while also saving taxpayer dollars.
We’ve created jobs and cut our own unemployment rate in half. I took the shuttered Bethlehem Steel mill, for example, and turned it into a global port and distribution facility that will create 17,000 jobs, replacing the 2,000 jobs we lost when the steel mill closed.
I’ve done all of this without raising the property tax rate or income tax rate during my 23 years in office. And we’ve maintained the highest credit rating in the country.
Why do you think you can do a better job than Gov. Hogan, particularly regarding the policies of the Trump administration?
We need leaders who stand up for what we stand for. As county executive, I’ve stood up to Donald Trump’s divisive attacks on our immigrant communities by passing an executive order indicating that no county employee, including the police, can discriminate because of one’s immigration status.
Six years ago, I signed a law prohibiting discrimination against transgender individuals. Two years ago, I stood up to change the name of Robert E. Lee Park to Lake Roland. As governor, I will ensure that hate never becomes a Maryland value.
By contrast, Larry Hogan remains silent when his president conducts this reign of terror on immigrant communities.
What can we do to manage our opioid and heroin epidemic?
When Gov. Hogan campaigned, one of his top priorities was to curb the tragic opioid and heroin epidemic in the state. But instead, under him this problem has only gotten worse. What he has focused on is … how do we help reverse potentially fatal overdoses by using naloxone [which treats narcotic overdoses in emergencies]? We certainly joined him in that effort to equip our police and fire first responders with naloxone, and doing outreach efforts to families [so they can use naloxone if necessary].
But unfortunately, naloxone only deals with that moment in a crisis. It doesn’t provide a cure to the problem. In my opinion, we need increased access to treatment on demand. That’s where we need to be funding our state dollars.
When addicts are in a crisis moment and they want help, if we don’t provide that immediate treatment on demand, we lose them.
We also have to be more aggressive in terms of identifying, through our health care system, ways that addicts have access through insurance to work with our hospitals. That way, we’re not just treating addicts in an emergency room and discharging them, but instead are able to transfer them to longer-care facilities where we can address underlying problems.
None of this has been addressed by the governor, despite his claim that he was going to take this issue on. We also must be more aggressive in police interdiction of drugs being imported into Maryland.
What are the best ways to protect the Chesapeake Bay?
Baltimore County has been the role model for this state in terms of environmental protection and thoughtful land-use policies. For example, our land-use policies ensure that 70 percent of our population lives on 30 percent of land, and we jealously guard and protect our 200 miles of waterfront and our 2,000 miles of streams and tributaries.
We spend $25 million a year rebuilding the eroding streambeds, planting trees, and even sweeping trash from the streets, all to protect the Chesapeake Bay. We need to aggressively uphold statewide standards that protect the Chesapeake Bay’s annual $33 billion economic and recreational value to Maryland.
How have Jewish values influenced your career?
I am the son of Jewish parents. I married a Jewish wife, Jill, and we are raising our sons Jewish. Our religion and culture offer us great opportunities to share our values. I’m a proud product of that religion and that culture. I’m a lifelong member of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. Jill and I were married there, and our two sons were bar mitzvah there.
Peter Arnold is an Olney, Md.-based freelance writer.
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