Statement: Good governance advocates applaud introduction of Baltimore County Fair Elections bill

Media Contacts
Emily Scarr

State Director, Maryland PIRG; Director, Stop Toxic PFAS Campaign, PIRG

If passed by Council, Baltimore County would join 4 other jurisdictions in enacting reform.

Maryland PIRG

BALTIMORE – Today, Baltimore County Council President Julian Jones introduced legislation on behalf of County Executive John “Johnny O” Olszewski to create a Fair Election Fund, which allows candidates for County Executive and County Council to run using a small donor public campaign financing option. 

In November 2020, Baltimore County voters supported Question A on the ballot, which amended the Baltimore County Charter to enable the creation of the Fair Election Fund. 

In order to participate in the small donor program, candidates have to file a notice of intent to make use of the fund, establish a new campaign account, and meet a few conditions:

  • They must accept only donations from individuals, of $250 or less.

  • They must refuse donations from large donors, PACs, corporations, other candidates and political parties. 

  • They must meet minimum thresholds for the number of local donors and amount of money raised in order to demonstrate that their pursuit of public office is viable.

If a candidate agrees to and meets these conditions, they become eligible for limited matching funds for small donations made by Baltimore County residents.

In 2014, after authorization from the state, Montgomery County became the first community in the state to establish a small donor public financing system for local elections. Since then, Baltimore City, Howard County, Washington D.C., and Prince George’s County have all established similar programs. Montgomery County ran their first election using the system in 2018, which showed promising results.

The legislation will now be considered by the County Council.

In response, Maryland PIRG Director Emily Scarr issued the following statement:

“Large and corporate donors play too big a role in Baltimore County elections, but with the fair elections program things can be different. The County Council should move swiftly to finalize this program so candidates for office can spend more time building support in communities instead of chasing big checks from wealthy donors and special interests.

Cheers to County Executive Olszewski, Council President Jones, and Councilman Marks for their hard work on this bill. Maryland PIRG is thrilled to continue working with the Baltimore County Council and community leaders to finalize the Fair Election program to reduce the influence of big money, helping build a stronger democracy in Baltimore County.”

Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee Member Samay Kindra issued the following statement: 

“The proposed bill represents the Fair Election Work Group’s thorough conversations and deliberations over the past several months. The proposed fund will allow everyone, no matter their race, gender, or income to have equal opportunity in both running for local office and supporting local candidates. I’m excited to see everyone’s hard work come to fruition as we finalize the Fair Election program.”

Common Cause Maryland Policy & Engagement Manager Morgan Drayton issue the following statement: 
“It’s so exciting to see Baltimore County on the path to becoming the fifth jurisdiction in the state to establish a public financing program, especially at a time where residents in the County are discussing ways to diversify leadership. The Fair Election Fund will make it possible for more women, Black people, other people of color, and young people to run competitive races as we’ve seen through our existing programs in Montgomery County and Howard County.”