By Pat Warren

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The four top candidates for Baltimore County Executive faced off Wednesday in a debate hosted by WJZ-TV, The Baltimore Sun and University of Baltimore.

Baltimore County voters, the third largest population in Maryland, must decide who will take on the job of county executive.

Three leading Democrats — County Councilwoman Vicki Almond, State Senator Jim Brochin and former state delegate Johnny Olszewski Jr. — debated alongside Republican Delegate Pat McDonough in a  forum moderated by WJZ anchor Mary Bubala.

Brochin sees over development as the county’s most pressing problem, driven by pay-to-play politics.

“We have a system where the county council — where certain members of the county council — get campaign contributions from developers and developer interests and then they get unfettered access to our lands,” he said.

Almond said there is no pay to play.

“Baltimore County is not corrupt, the council is not corrupt. We do not take money from developers for anything,” she said. “Are my opponents saying that because they have nothing else to attack me on? I really wonder if that’s their reasoning.”

Olszewski is running on an education platform.

“I think education is, hands down education is the most important issue,” he said. ‘Education is my passion and my priority.”

Another Republican in the race, insurance commissioner Al Redmer Jr. did not participate, telling The Sun that he would not appear on stage with McDonough.

According to The Sun, McDonough filed a complaint with ethics officials that Redmer was campaigning on state time.

“Baltimore County is a runaway train going off a bridge,” McDonough said. “We have to look at our spending priorities number one. Number two, the budget — how do you read a budget, which in my opinion, is dishonest,”

Redmer’s office reached out to WJZ to clarify why he did not attend.

“Al Redmer declined the original invitation for a Republicans-only debate first and foremost due to a scheduling conflict. He articulated in a letter to the Sun that, because of his opponent’s relentless false attacks and negative campaigning over a number of months, he could not in good faith agree to a Republicans-only debate,” spokeswoman Hannah Marr said. The campaign was not given an option to appear with all five major candidates, but would have accepted had that option been made available to us.”

The vacancy was open because former County Executive Kevin Kamenetz was barred from running again due to term limits. Kamenetz had announced he was running for governor before his untimely death in May. The county council appointed Don Mohler, Kamenetz’s chief of staff, to complete the remainder of his term.

Watch the full debate below:

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