Two-term Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, among the leading candidates in this year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, died suddenly early this morning at University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center following a heart attack.
The 60-year-old Kamenetz was asleep at his Owings Mills home when he awoke at about 2 a.m. and complained of feeling ill, according to a statement from Baltimore County. Kamenetz was transported by the Garrison Fire Station's Medic 19 to the St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, where doctors pronounced him dead at 3:22 a.m.
He is survived by his wife, Jill, and the couple’s two sons, aged 16 and 14.
Additional details regarding Kamenetz’s death are expected to be provided at a briefing today at the Public Safety Building in Towson.
County Administrative Officer Fred Homan will assume the county executive role until the Baltimore County Council votes on an acting executive to serve out the remainder of Kamenetz’s term.
One of seven Democrats in a crowded primary field, Kamenetz had been a vigorous campaigner since joining the field last fall. Wednesday night, Kamenetz participated in a candidate forum in Bowie State College in Prince George's County. Tuesday night, Kamenetz was in Baltimore for the Baltimore teachers’ union town hall. On Sunday, he and running mate Valerie Ervin knocked on doors in Montgomery County.
Congressman C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, a former Baltimore County Executive, knew Kamenetz well and had endorsed his bid for governor.
“I’ll have more to say once I have been able to process the devastating news of Kevin Kamenetz’s passing last night,” Ruppersberger said in a statement posted to his Facebook page. “Kevin was a friend to me, to Baltimore County and to Maryland. My heart is broken for his wife, Jill, and their two sons.”
Ruppersberger's reaction to the unexpected news was echoed by political leaders across the state. In Annapolis, Gov. Larry Hogan ordered the state flag to fly at half-staff in honor Kamenetz’s public service.
“The First Lady and I are shocked and grieved by the sudden passing of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz,” Hogan said in a statement. “Our prayers go out to his family and many loved ones this morning.”
Kamenetz served 16 years as a Baltimore County council member prior becoming county executive.
Among his achievements as county executive, Kamenetz prioritized the revitalization of downtown Towson, pushed to renovate aging schools, and led the effort to transform Sparrows Point—once home to Bethlehem Steel—into the massive, ongoing redevelopment project known as Tradepoint Atlantic. In the process, Kamenetz never raised taxes, adding to his viability as a potential Democratic challenger to Hogan.
Kamenetz had been a supporter of Baltimore City’s effort to build the east-west Red Line transit line and the city’s pitch to land Amazon.
"Kevin was an ardent supporter of Baltimore City, who was a regular in our restaurants, cultural venues and at our major team games," Mayor Catherine Pugh said in a press release. "I considered him a friend and colleague, and admired him for his commitment to pursuing the best interests of Baltimore County residents, even while advocating for all Marylanders in his pursuit to be governor. Our hearts go out to his wife Jill and their two sons, and the many who cherished his friendship, easy smile, and determined spirit."
The son of a Lochearn pharmacist, Kamenetz attended the Gilman School, earned an undergraduate degree from The Johns Hopkins University and law degree from the University of Baltimore, and had some of the deepest local roots of any area politician.
Kamenetz was one of only three Democratic candidates—along with Prince Georges County Executive Rushern Baker and Montgomery County State Senator Rich Madaleno—with legislative experience. Kamenetz, according to most polling, was running third in the Democratic gubernatorial primary—scheduled for June 26—behind Baker and former NAACP president and CEO Ben Jealous.
“I’m incredibly saddened to learn of the passing of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz,” Jealous said in a statement. “He dedicated his life to public service, to making a difference—and he helped to move Maryland forward. My sincerest thoughts and prayers are with Jill and their two sons.”