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Cody Boteler

The Baltimore Banner

February 21, 2024

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr.’s bid for Congress got a boost Wednesday from two key endorsements.

Retiring Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, who Olszewski is hoping to replace, and Rep. Steny Hoyer, who previously served as the House majority leader, traveled to Towson for an appearance announcing their support.

Hoyer and Ruppersberger both said they’ve known Olszewski for decades, and that he was the right candidate to send to Congress.

“He’ll be an extraordinary member of this delegation,” Hoyer said. “Johnny O is someone that all Americans and all Marylanders and all 2nd District residents can trust. America needs Johnny Olszewski in the Congress of the United States.”

Ruppersberger said his decision to retire took a long time to make.

“The factor that really made my decision easy in the end, and it was not easy until the end, is that Johnny O was waiting. That Johnny was there,” Ruppersberger said.

Olsezewski announced his run for Congress on Jan. 30, shortly after Ruppersberger announced his retirement. If Olszewski is elected to Congress, he could set off a political shuffle in the county.

Olszewski is one of six Democrats running to represent the district that includes most of Baltimore and Carroll counties and a small portion of Baltimore City. Three Republicans are seeking the seat.

Olszewski said he was overwhelmed by the support he’s received including the “75-plus” endorsements from Maryland leaders and “hundreds” of grassroots donations.

“I’m a firm believer that Congress can benefit from more executives, people who have managed multibillion-dollar budgets, and people who understand how federal policy from housing to homelessness affects us on the ground level,” Olszewski said.

Olszewski he would work to “defend our democracy,” protect abortion rights and find “consensus and compromise, without compromising our values.”

Other Democratic candidates include Del. Harry Bhandari, who represents part of Baltimore County.The most prominent Republican is conservative commentator Kim Klacik, who ran unsuccessful campaigns for Congress in 2020, losing twice to Rep. Kweisi Mfume by more than 40 percentage points each time.

Klacik’s campaign website is sparse, and includes the viral advertisement she starred in when she ran for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in 2020, featuring her walking a section of West Baltimore.

Klacik could not immediately be reached for comment.

Despite her losses, Klacik was a big fundraiser. She brought in more than $8 million in 2020, according to Federal Election Commission data, though most of that money went to the companies who produced and promoted her ad. According to that same data, her campaign ended 2020 with almost $800,000 cash on hand.

While it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, Olszewski’s campaign in the race for county executive in 2018 reported having less than $220,000 just before the primary — which he won by 17 votes. His county executive campaign committee reported having just under $1.8 million in the bank at the beginning this year.

Olszewski’s campaign said it had raised more than $400,000 since entering the race.

“I’m confident we’ll have the resources to communicate our message of common sense progress on all of those issues, whether it’s the reproductive rights or gun safety, investing in the public safety of our communities and supporting working families,” Olszewski said during the press conference.

Olszewski also said, if he were to face Klacik in the general election, that there “could not be a more stark contrast” between the two of them, reiterating that while he was a proud Democrat, he’d be willing to work across the partisan aisle to get things done.

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