Tuesday, November 1, 2022



On November 1st, 2018, we reached the “whiny and mean-spirited letter” stage in the race for Howard County Executive. Who knows what today will bring?

Four years ago the Republican candidate for County Executive, Allan Kittleman, was known as an all-round nice guy. True, people around him were aggressively negative in their campaigning but it never seemed to stick to him. 

I’d like to point out that he didn’t use his leadership ability to call them off and insist on clean and positive campaigning, though. Just as he didn’t use his leadership ability to call out the disingenuous tactics used in the drive to get people to sign a petition about Howard County’s Liberty Act, either. (He even helped fund it.)

Nice guy, that fellow. You almost felt sorry for him surrounded by such unpleasantness and mean-spirited politicking in his own party.

But this year’s campaign is different. Kittleman’s campaigning is negative and accusatory. It’s No More Mr. Nice Guy for him. This leaves us with two possibilities. Either he was always like this on the inside but masked it for the purposes of a squeaky clean image, or someone convinced him that the only way he could win the election was to fully embrace the negativity and run with it.

Frankly, either one is pretty terrible. 

But neither one explains something which has long bothered me. This:

Kittleman campaign sign, as seen on Frank Hecker.com

Or, rather, this:

Kittleman isn’t an Independent, he’s a Republican. To my knowledge he’s never been anything but a Republican. Using the word “Independent” on political signs - - that people drive by quickly and get a fleeting impression of - - is a campaign choice. A gimmick.

  • Some may think he’s an Independent and not a Republican.
  • Some may think he’s setting himself apart from MAGA/January 6th Republicans.
  • Some may think he acts independently of partisan or big-money influence. 
It will mean whatever the reader wants it to mean. If this Republican candidate can convince local Independents or even a few disaffected Democrats to think it’s okay to vote Kittleman because he’s a “Proven Independent Leader”, then the end justifies the means, right?

I have a confession to make. Every time I see those signs I am reminded of this moment in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Rankin Bass, 1964

Our two friends, Hermey and Rudolph, declare their “independence” but honestly don’t know the first thing about it. When you’re in a Rankin Bass Christmas special that’s cute. When you’re running for public office it’s…not. Letting the bad actors in your own local party have free reign while you step aside isn’t independence. It’s acquiescence. Making the choice to join them is capitulation. 

And that’s where we are right now. 

Almost every video and piece of campaign lit from the Kittleman campaign right now is straight out of the racist dog whistle Republican (see also Lee Atwater) playbook. If you like that sort if thing, you’re thrilled. If you don’t, you’re horrified. This isn’t leadership. And it most certainly isn’t independent.

If you have a gift for leadership, and a proven record of making good choices, there’s no reason in the world to run on making the other guy look like “the dangerous black man”, “the slippery trickster”, “the bad element that makes your neighborhood less safe”. You only do that if you yourself have nothing of substance to offer. 

It’s disappointing and, quite frankly, dangerous. It stirs up a kind of anger that we know can have violent outcomes.

Most of all, isn’t Independent.

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