For those of you who missed Arthur Hirsch’s article in the Baltimore Sun, “Kevin Kamenetz softens edges on Baltimore County campaign trail,” here is the link.
If I were Kamenetz, I would be pretty pissed about this article, as it paints a portrait of an unpleasant person trying to rein in his acerbic instincts in order to broaden his appeal to voters. By contrast, the accompanying article about Kamenetz’s primary rival, Joe Bartenfelder, portrays him as an authentic, easy-going everyman.
Kamenetz’s arrogant nature is no secret to those of us who have been involved in local politics. It's earned him a reputation as the Baltimore County Council's insult comic-in-residence. I witnessed it myself back in 1996, when I had the misfortune of spending an evening with him. One of my friends who worked for then-County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger invited me to a function at the Towson Sheraton. Afterwards, a bunch of us – Kamenetz included – adjourned to the hotel bar for drinks and conversation.
It was clear from the outset that Kamenetz is one of those people who regards Republicans – even confirmed moderates like me – as naive at best, and venal at worst. During the entire night, he kept making remarks intended to both belittle me and push my buttons. His favorite targets included what he assumed my ideology to be (“I don’t know how right wing YOU are, but…”) and my then-boss and his former Gilman classmate, Bob Ehrlich (“Gerry Brewster and I were in the political club, and Bob Ehrlich only played football”). Personality wise, Kamenetz seemed better suited to be a prep school dean of students than a successful politician.
Success in the political arena hinges upon tolerance, patience, gregariousness, and a good sense of humor. That night, Kamenetz exhibited none of these qualities.
Of course, that was a long time ago, and people do change. The article indicated that Kamenetz has mellowed, and I believe it. I also think he is intelligent and a hard worker with a solid grasp of county issues.
Conventional wisdom dictates that Kamenetz is the favorite in the Democratic primary. If he defeats Bartenfelder, it will be interesting to see how Kamenetz’s personality and establishment politician status factor into the general election campaign. Personally, I think people want to vote for someone who will lead, not lecture.