Johnny O pulls out of Baltimore County executive debate (don’t worry, there are plenty more)

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John “Johnny O” Olszewski (left) and Al Redmer. Photos via Facebook.

Much to the ire of a Dundalk civic group, Johnny Olszewski, the Democratic nominee for Baltimore County executive, has backed out of a debate scheduled for this Friday in Dundalk due to a family matter.

“An unexpected family obligation has required his time and attention on Friday,” said campaign spokesman Sean Naron on Tuesday, just as “Johnny O” was leaving another debate with his Republican opponent, Al Redmer, at the Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel in Towson.

He added: “We’d hope our opponent would provide the same respect and courtesy we afforded to him when he had to miss a debate with The Baltimore Sun to address a family matter earlier this year.”

The civic council announced the cancellation last night with a critical press release, calling it a “broken promise” by Olszewski to debate topics like “Baltimore County Public School corruption,” “developer ‘Pay-for-Play,'” “Section 8 Housing” and other matters in an event that the council said “is now impossible.” The debate, which would have been their fourth, had been set for 7 p.m. on Friday at the North Point Government Center in Dundalk.

The council also offered some praise to Redmer while calling attention to the plight of its apparently oft-ignored constituents: “The 7th District Civic Council of Baltimore County Debate Committee thanks Mr. Al Redmer’s unwavering commitment to a transparent and rigorous election process including Baltimore County’s apparently forgotten and forgone 7th District voters.”

Redmer’s camp said on Facebook that it was “disappointing if not unsurprising” Olszewski backed out of the debate. Redmer also echoed the civic council’s worries about their district’s voters not getting enough attention, writing, “This isn’t the first time Johnny O has turned his back on District 7, and if he is elected County Executive it certainly won’t be the last.”

Asked for comment by email, Redmer’s campaign pointed to the Facebook post.

As Naron noted on a phone call, Baltimore County voters have already had some chances to see them talk about the issues. Redmer, the state’s insurance commissioner, and Olszewski, a progressive Democrat who previously served in the State House, debated last month at CCBC-Catonsville, and have both appeared at other events for voters to meet the candidates.

And they’re packing plenty of debates and forums into this month leading up to Election Day, which is just five weeks away. That includes at least four events through the end of next weekend—to be held in Towson (twice), Perry Hall, Monkton and Owings Mills—and five others through Oct. 22.

Redmer campaign spokeswoman Hannah Marr said in an email that they’ll also be taping a televised debate at Fox 45 on Oct. 10, with an air date to be determined. She noted two of the upcoming debates will air on the radio, one on WOLB 1010-AM’s “Larry Young Morning Show” on Oct. 18, and another on “Midday with Tom Hall” on WYPR on Oct. 22.

Olszewski’s campaign plans to stream all of them on its Facebook page.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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