Last night, embattled Baltimore County GOP Chairman Tony Campbell did something I did not expect him to do: resign.
I also expected the Central Committee’s remaining members – six have stepped down since
Campbell took over – to find creative ways to bypass ’s influence, just as Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie did when coping with another in-over-his-head GOP chairman. Campbell
But in the end, that wasn’t necessary. After yet another fractious Central Committee showdown, Campbell quietly agreed to take his ball and head home.
A party chairman should always serve as an agent of unity for the party he serves.
could not do that. He deserves some credit for belatedly recognizing that fact, and for putting his ego aside and doing the right thing. Campbell
So, now that the
era has ended for Baltimore County Republicans, who is the best person to take the party forward? Campbell
I surveyed a few activists, and they all seem to agree that the race to succeed
comes down to three names: Al Mendelsohn, Tom Henry, and Steve Kolbe. Each potential chairman’s strengths – and weaknesses – can be summarized in a single term. Campbell
For Mendelsohn, that word is “veteran.” Mendelsohn is a longtime, sometimes shoot from the hip party activist who ran unsuccessfully for party chairman twice before. People who know him say he has matured in recent years. His biggest selling point is his experience. But will that experience make him sensitive to new opportunities or limit his focus?
Tom Henry was described as a “bomb thrower.” Every party needs a bomb thrower now and again, especially when dealing with an entrenched majority party.
county Republicans did respectably during the last election cycle, doubling their representation on the County Council and fielding a candidate who won five out of seven councilmanic districts. Would County Executive be better served by a bomb thrower who challenges the majority, or someone willing to offer programmatic alternatives on budget, taxes, and other matters? county Republicans
Steve Kolbe is the “businessman.” His supporters tout his Main Street savvy. Indeed, most of the people I surveyed were leaning towards Kolbe as the strongest candidate.
At this point, I don’t really have a preference among these three. But I do hope that the central committee will do two things before they make their selection.
First, I hope they recruit a few more candidates into the race. Former Delegate and
nominee Ken Holt would be a great choice, as would former Councilman Doug Riley. Even if neither of these individuals is interested, they represent the experience and level of ability the new chairman should possess. County Executive
I also hope Baltimore County Republicans will keep the chairman’s race from becoming a choice between white men. Central Committee Member Hillary Foster Pennington represents the kind of woman who would make a strong candidate. She’s young, has hands-on campaign experience, and is a marketing professional as well as a wife and a mother. Her relevant real-life experience would be a breath of fresh air.
Second, I hope the Central Committee will hold a full-fledged interview process. Candidates should each make a formal presentation on their ideas to foster two-party competition in
. In the end, the Central Committee should choose the winning candidate based on their ideas and not simply on charisma or personal relationships. Maryland
I look forward to watching this process play out. Baltimore County Republicans have an opportunity to hit the reset button after a fractious couple of months. They need to make the most of it.