Crandell rallies troops, gets endorsement from Ehrlich
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 12:39

Former governor gives nod to GOP council hopeful

by Steve Matrazzo

    When you see two men wearing Irish kilts in Greektown, you know it’s not an average day.
    It certainly wasn’t for Todd Crandell. The Republican candidate for County Council held a fundraiser at the Greektown Square and Event Center on Sunday at which attendees were greeted by kilt-clad Dennis McCartney and Bob Crandell (the candidate’s father).
    Their regalia, however, was dwarfed in practical importance by the event itself, which boasted a large turnout and a number of prominent figures in attendance — most notably, former Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich, who pressed the flesh and signed copies of his recent book America: Hope for Change at a $100-per-person cocktail party held before the main event, and who — apart from the candidate himself— was the featured speaker at the larger $45-per-ticket fundraiser.
    “This is not only a winnable race — I’m going to put the pressure on Todd — this is a race he should win,” Ehrlich told the nearly 200 people in the hall.
    In a private interview with The Eagle after his remarks, Ehrlich noted that he is “not doing a lot of local [election] stuff,” but that in Crandell’s case, he was “making an exception for ‘family,’” noting his own longstanding ties to the Crandell family and the association he and the council candidate share as fellow alumni of Baltimore’s Gilman School.
    He said it was “easy to make that exception for someone so exceptional,” touting Crandell’s intelligence, community involvement and solid business background.

Ehrlich added that he chose to speak out in the council contest because he thinks that Crandell has a real chance to break the historic Democratic hold on Dundalk-area offices.
    “Some of the local races are very difficult [for Republicans],” the former governor noted. “Todd has  made this a tight race, and a very important race. He can win this, and I’m happy to be able to help if I can.”
    Local Republicans seemed to agree with Ehr-
lich’s assessment. Bob Long, making his second run for House of Delegates, said Crandell “has got a battle ahead of him, but I think he’s got what it takes, I believe he’ll win.”
    In fact, while some critics have pointed to Crandell’s switch from the Democratic Party to the GOP (he ran for the House as a Democrat in 2010), Long said he viewed it as a sign of his party’s growing strength and its ability to attract candidates — and voters — long accustomed to local Democratic dominance but receptive to the Republican message.
    “He’s the same guy he was when he was a Democrat,” Long observed, “but this party is a better place for him — and for a lot of voters, too.
    “Besides, it’s not really about ‘D’ and ‘R’ — it’s about serving the people.”
    That reach across party lines was evident in attendance at the event.    
    Introducing Crandell before his speech to the assembled crowd was a former Democratic officeholder — Bob Staab, who served as a Democrat in the House of Delegates from 1979 to 1987.
    The 1977 Dundalk Citizen of the Year honoree was joined at the event by three fellow Citizen of the Year laureates — McCartney, Joe Stadler and Joe Cristy — and other prominent locals including Calvary Baptist Church pastor the Rev. Cameron Giovanelli (Crandell attands the Calvary church), former Back River Restoration Committee leader “Captain Jerry” Ziemski, Charlene Osborne (in her full “Baltimore’s Best Hon” finery), Eastfield-Stanbrook Civic Association president Karen Cruz, and Rhonda Crisp, former president of the DunLogan Community Council and the Dundalk Renaissance Corp. (where she now serves as vice president).
    Cruz and Crisp were leading supporters of Crandell’s 2010 Democratic House bid.
    The presence of those notables, and the overall size of the crowd, was taken by many as another sign that local voters are ready to move away from the longstanding Democratic monopoly in local elections.
    Crandell gave a nod to longtime Republicans who paved the way locally, including Long and fellow House candidate Ric Metzgar, who credited Crandell with “a volunteer team unlike any we’ve had in Baltimore County — the hardest-working we’ve ever seen. With what we already had, plus what he brings, plus a lot of other new blood, we’ve got a chance to make a clean sweep” in local races.
    Among that “new blood” is House candidate Robin Grammer, who also got a shout-out from Crandell and returned the favor by  calling Crandell “a good candidate, one who really reflects well on the party.
    “Think about the way things used to be here,” Grammer said, referring to better local economic conditions of the past. “This is the first generation that doesn’t have what that [previous] generation had.
    “We need to work on things here. Todd knows that.”
    Other Republican stalwarts agreed, with Steve Dishon calling Crandell “the best candidate we’ve had,” and Herman “Woody” Wood saying, “He’s definitely got it together.”
    In his own remarks, Crandell largely hewed to the “rally” aspect of the event, focusing less on specific policy questions than on broad motivating principles.
    Southeastern Baltimore County, he said, has become “a dumping ground,” and pointed to factors including the Back River sewage treatment plant and the disproportionate presence of subsidized housing in the area.
    He blamed a “broken, absent, self-serving political leadership ... [that] vacated responsibility long ago,” but promised listeners that “we will accomplish great things together.”
    He went on to lay out a rough sketch of proposals including a “job creation team” of private-sector experts whose experience would be applied to fostering local job growth, an “ecumenical advisory board” of local religious leaders aimed at addressing social ills like homelessness, and a recreation and parks advisory group “to be stewards of our good fortune instead of selling off community assets for short-term greed” — a clear reference to the sale of the North Point Government Center site, which Crandell has called “bad policy.”
    More important at the moment than specifics, he said, was the larger issue of commitment by all local citizens to changing the direction of the community.
    “We will have the courage to do what we thought we could not do, and we will have the courage to transform our community.”