The Baltimore County Fair Election Fund Work Group’s final report proposes a framework for the County’s first public financing system for candidates for local offices.
As previously reported on Conduit Street, Baltimore County voters in 2020 approved a Charter Amendment to make public funds available to County Executive and County Council candidates. Establishing a Fair Election Fund is a key priority for County Executive Johnny Olszewski, who called for a public financing option for local elections before taking office.
In the coming months, County Executive Olzweski will introduce legislation based on the Work Group’s recommendations to the County Council, which must enact legislation to create a Fair Election Fund System for candidates running in the 2026 election cycle.
Baltimore County will join the State of Maryland, Baltimore City, and three counties — Montgomery, Howard, and Prince George’s — to offer a public financing option for candidates.
According to a Baltimore County press release:
The Work Group’s recommendations released today include:
- Create a maximum individual contribution limit of $250 for candidates participating in the Fair Election Fund system.
- Require contributors to be Baltimore County residents in order for contributions to qualify towards the threshold required to receive matching funds.
- For County Executive candidates: set a threshold of at least $40,000 in qualifying contributions from at least 500 contributors before allowing access to matching funds from the Fair Election fund.
- For County Council candidates: set a threshold of at least $10,000 in qualifying contributions from at least 125 contributors before allowing access to matching funds from the Fair Election fund.
- For County Executive candidates: place a limit of $750,000 in total matching funds per election.
- For County Council candidates: place a limit of $80,000 in total matching funds per election.
- Create a tiered matching fund system to incentivize small dollar contributions for candidates.
- Set limits for funds that can be contributed directly by the candidate, their spouse, or adult members of their immediate family for candidates participating in the Fair Election Fund system.
- Establish a Fair Election Fund Commission consisting of county residents who would make recommendations to the County to ensure the Fund is solvent ahead of each election cycle.