All those things are true of both candidates Allan Kittleman and Courtney Watson.
If you've seen their ads you can tell that they are experienced, caring public servants. They are well-liked by others. They have plans and ideas for the future of Howard County. They are both completely qualified for the job of County Executive. It is a blessing as a voter to be able to choose between too strong, good people.
I've come to know each of them a bit through email, social media and face-to-face conversations. They are often out and about meeting people, and they each care deeply about the history and the future of Howard County. They've each taken time to discuss local issues with me. As individuals, I like them both quite a bit.
So how will I choose who earns my vote? At first, my decision came down to economics.
Some people will always be better off than others and some companies will always outperform others, but as long as most people and companies have their basic needs met, we're doing alright as a community. The Great Recession hurt everyone, but it hurt some more than others. The recovery has been slow and uneven, although by uneven I really mean lop-sided. Lop-sided is no good. It's all the lucky breaks breaking for the same side over and again. In government, though, I don't really believe in the idea of lucky. In government, people are making choices, and those choices have both good and bad consequences.
So that became my litmus test as a voter - does a candidate's positions tend to favor the folks who have the most at the expense of those who have the least?
But that's not just an economic test. In fact, I think that's a moral test. My moral convictions compel me to notice the treatment of the least of my brothers and sisters. Notice...and to act.
With that test in mind, my choice for Howard County Executive is clear. I choose Courtney Watson.
Courtney Watson supported raising the minimum wage in Maryland. Allan Kittleman did not. I see neither a moral nor a pragmatic case for allowing full-time work to pay less than a livable wage. No one working full-time should have to live in poverty. That's my moral stance. My pragmatic stance aligns with the Maryland Business for a Fair Minimum Wage statement as related by The Baltimore Sun:
"Raising Maryland's minimum wage makes good business sense," the statement argues. "Workers are also customers. Minimum wage increases boost sales at local businesses as workers buy needed goods and services they could not afford before. And nothing drives job creation more than consumer demand."Courtney Watson is endorsed by several labor unions. She has the backing of teachers, police, and firefighters. I don't know when "union" became a dirty word or a bad idea, but I think it did based on falsehoods and misunderstandings. If you have weekends off, thank the labor union movement. If your children are allowed to go to school instead of performing manual work, thank the labor union movement. If you are reading this on your lunch break, thank a union. If you enjoy paid vacation and sick leave, thank a union. You can also thank a union for creating workplace safety standards, for health and dental insurance benefits, and for prohibiting workplace discrimination. You don't even have to be in a union to reap those benefits. The labor union movement created that for us all because the business sector wasn't doing it on its own, and yet Allan Kittleman repeatedly introduced legislation that would weaken Maryland's already shrinking labor unions. It's called "Right to Work" and it starves unions of money needed to do the work of advocating for workers. In states with such laws, the larger share of economic growth goes to the owners, and workers have lower wages on average than pro-union states. Right-to-work laws have been studied, and there is no conclusive evidence to support Allan's claim that right-to-work laws spur job creation.
Courtney Watson is a champion for public education. As an advocate for and supporter of our public schools, I'd be completely remiss if I didn't mention that. Courtney's record on education is very strong, and I want you to know that Allan's record on education is one I support, as well. Where they differ, in my view, is their record of finding solutions to the challenges of public education and to balancing the sometimes competing needs and desires of constituents. Courtney does a better job of striking that balance and finding those solutions.
The issues facing Howard County don't obviously fall along political party lines, and I'm not interested in basing my vote on party affiliation alone. For our local officials, I'm interested in people who solve problems. In order to solve problems, you have to recognize them. You also have to be willing to acknowledge that there will be downsides to every solution, that some people will be inconvenienced and hurt by changes. However, I cannot support candidates who allow the greater hurt to go to those who are already hurting greatly.
Courtney Watson recognizes the problems we face in Howard County, and her solutions are inclusive and their benefits are wide-spread. Courtney Watson for Howard County Executive.