By Ava-joye Burnett

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — An event for the Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidates turned into a reflection on the life of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz after his unexpected death.

“Shocking and devastating. I was just with him last evening at the Bowie State University debate. He was sitting right next to me and it was a spirited debate,” candidate Krish Vignarajah said.

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At least five candidates were in attendance at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where everyone mentioned his family.

“I think right now, everybody is just in shock. Somebody who was alive and thriving and speaking well and making a great case is just gone. His family is left without a father, a husband,” candidate Jim Shea said.

Kamenetz, 60, died from cardiac arrest early Thursday morning at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center. He is survived by his wife and two teenage sons.

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“Just seeing him with Jill and seeing him with those boys, that’s the image that’s in my head right now. Not thinking much about politics, I’m thinking about the loss to those kids,” candidate Alec Ross said.

County officials say Kamenetz woke up feeling ill around 2 a.m., but instead of calling 911, he went to the Chestnut Ridge Volunteer Fire Company, which is two miles from his home in Owings Mills.

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His condition quickly deteriorated as he lost consciousness and never regained it, although firefighters were briefly able to get his pulse back.

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“And to know that his kids aren’t going to have a chance to make that up, to get that tone with dad back, it really just hurts my heart,” candidate Ben Jealous said.

Former Baltimore County Councilmember Sam Moxley remembers Kamenetz as a man of the people.

“He really cared deeply about people and the fact that he’s gone today is just devastating. I still think I’m in a nightmare,” Moxley said.

A funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Friday at the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation at 7401 Park Heights Avenue.

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Ava-joye Burnett