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A Republican To Lead The Council?

Councilman Todd Huff wants to leapfrog Democrat Tom Quirk and become the first Republican to lead the council in nearly two decades.

There hasn't been a Republican chairman of the Baltimore County Council in nearly 20 years but that would change tonight if Todd Huff has his way.

Councilman Tom Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat is expected to succeed Vicki Almond as chairman when the council meets tonight in its first legislative session of the year. Huff has expressed interest in bumping his colleague from the predetermined rotation.

"I would like the opportunity," Huff said in an interview late last year.

"I enjoyed working with all my colleagues," Huff said. "I feel like I could be a strong leader and it would show true bipartisanship on the council."

The largely administrative job pays $6,000 more than the council salary of $54,000. That temporary salary bump does affect the pensions of councilmembers, which are based on the highest annual salary earned.

Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat, was slated to lead the council this year but was moved up to 2012 after the five freshman members raised questions about Councilman Ken Oliver, a Randallstown Democrat, after it was reported he held a state job in violation of the County Charter.

Following Almond, the new order of chairman for the current term is said to be Quirk and then Cathy Bevins, an Oliver Beach Democrat.

Control of the chairmanship typically goes to the majority party. In 1990, Democrats outnumbered Republicans 4-3 on the council. Councilman Doug Riley, a Towson Republican, became the first Republican to lead the council that year.  Don Mason, a Dundalk Democrat who won his seat on an anti-property tax campaign and frequently voted with Republicans, was the difference in that vote.

Democrats outnumber Republicans on the council 5-2. To successfully challenge Quirk, Huff will need the help of his Democratic colleagues. Almond and Bevins have pledged their votes to Quirk, in keeping with the pre-ordained rotation.

Huff said he's been speaking to members about the vote including Oliver and John Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat.

Olszewski was unavailable for comment. Oliver declined to say how he would vote but said he would consider Huff.

"I'd rather vote for a Republican who gets along with [County Executive Kevin Kamenetz] than a Democrat who doesn't," Oliver said.

Quirk was among a number of freshman councilmembers who opposed a proposed pension change sought by County Administrative Fred Homan. That opposition later caused councilmembers to claim Kamenetz cut budgets for road repairs in their districts in retaliation. Quirk and Councilman David Marks also raised questions about plans for the county Employees Retirement System to loan the county $25 million for a new recycling facility.

Huff, Oliver and Olszewski supported the pension change and received extra money for road projects in their districts when their colleagues received cuts.

The fact that Huff is expressing a public interest highlights some divisions on the council between freshman and veteran members of the council as well as those within the two parties themselves.

If Huff could get Oliver and Olszewski to back him, that would put Republican Councilman David Marks in the position of deciding the next leader of the council.

Marks closest colleagues on the council are Almond and Quirk and he has a working relationship with Bevins, who is expected to back Quirk. On the other hand, Marks' relationship with Huff has been strained at times even though the Perry Hall Republican said it has improved over the last six months or so.

"I would hope my fellow Republican would support me," Huff said.

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Patricia Bentz January 07, 2013 at 06:57 PM
If a Republican is to lead the County Council, it should definitely be Councilman David Marks. While I am a registered republican in the Third District (Huff's), I know that Council Marks has been very active in his community, is well spoken and continually communicates with his constituents. I have not heard one word from Councilman Huff as far as keeping in touch with what is going on in the Third District and what he is doing to improve certain concerns like the watershed issues, traffic, etc. If you want a Republican leader, than pick David Marks who has been an independent leader finding a way to get things done with cooperation and bipartisanship.
MC January 07, 2013 at 08:56 PM
No way David Marks. I'm not even sure he is a Republican. This man wasted money pushing legislation through the process that he knew he had no support for. He also gave his word on other legislation only to flip flop at the last minute. I trust him no further than I can throw him. Go build your bike beltway (death trap). Leave important decisions to those qualified to make them. Go Todd Huff.
Stark January 08, 2013 at 12:02 AM
It's so convenient for MC to smear David Marks from the shadows. David Marks has a lifetime of history with the Republican Party - and unlike Huff - supports GOP candidates and stands up to Kamenetz. He's by far the brightest and hardest working Councilmember. Slide back to the shadows with the trolls, MC.
Kelly Blue January 08, 2013 at 12:35 AM
Todd Huff is a good capable man. His business sense and ability to get along with everyone would be a tremendous asset in these difficult times.

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