In a Pimlico tradition, Preakness draws a stable of politicians

If you follow the trail of stylish women’s hats and goofy men’s shorts on Preakness Day at Pimlico, sooner or later you’re likely to run into politicians.

Elected officials, would-be office-holders and retired politicos flocked Saturday to Old Hilltop to mingle with colleagues, voters and potential donors.

From Gov. Larry Hogan to back-benchers in the House of Delegates, the draw of Maryland’s largest sporting event proved irresistible. And with the 2018 elections at the figurative starting gate, with many all-but-certain candidates on the brink of formal announcements, there was plenty of political horsepower on hand.

The hunting was more fruitful outside the corporate tents, where the beer booths served Stella Artois to the donor class, than in the infield where the Budweiser flowed. A half-hour spent in the infield turned up no sighting of recognizable pols.

But prowling the more elite environs turned up three potential candidates for one office — Baltimore County executive.

Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer, widely considered a Republican contender for the office, was hanging out in the State of Maryland tent and planning to make an early exit to go to see his daughter, “who has a Preakness Party that’s more fun than Pimlico.”

Like the other prospective candidates, Redmer declined to make news at the race. But he didn’t mind joking about it.

“The person talking most about me running is Pat McDonough,” Redmer said in a reference to the state delegate who is an announced candidate for the GOP nomination.

John Olszewski Jr., a potential candidate for the Democratic nomination, was looking dapper in his Preakness bow tie as he made the rounds with his wife, Marisa.

“We will have a big announcement very soon,” the former Dundalk delegate said. “It will probably be before others.”

Olszewski said the next county executive needs to be “a strong partner” to the city.

“We need to start thinking more regionally,” he said.

State Sen. Jim Brochin, another potential Democratic candidate, was enjoying a visit with a Republican former colleague, Hogan legislative director Chris Shank, at the Maryland tent. Brochin said that after a morning of work in his district, he decided to catch the last couple of races.

Brochin said he’s been traveling around the county, finding that voters are tired of what he calls “reckless over-development.” But as much as he sounded like a candidate, Brochin said he won’t run if he can’t raise enough money for the race.

But the senator said he wasn’t using the Preakness as a fundraising venue.

“I haven’t spoken with one person about money. I guess I should, shouldn’t I?” Brochin said.

The man whose job in is such demand, Kevin Kamenetz, walked by the Under Armour tent with a beverage in hand and a smile on his face. He had little to say about his all-but-certain run for the Democratic nomination for governor.

“This is all about the Preakness today, no politics,” he said.

Republican Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, a guest in the Pimlico owner’s “chalet,” said attending the Preakness is “kind of official business” for the holder of his office. More than most of his political colleagues, he was paying attention to the actual races.

“I try to keep from losing too much. I don’t know the horses,” he said. “I’m not a big gambler. I’m too cheap.”

Former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who held the office from 1995 to 2003, said he visits the Preakness every year but especially enjoys it as a retired politician.

For a decade, he said, he attended either as governor as a candidate for the office. But on Saturday, strolling around the grounds with his wife, Jennifer, and daughter, Bri, he said he can just wander around and “grab a cold one” whenever he wants.

And, perhaps, to soak up some bipartisan good feeling.

Del. Carl Anderton, a Republican, came from Wicomico County to celebrate his birthday at the Preakness. He bounded up to the Democratic former governor to shake his hand and thank him for one of the signature accomplishments of his term — helping bring the NFL back to Baltimore.

“Ravens, man! He’s hanging on my living room wall,” Anderton told a reporter.

The cigar in Anderton’s hand reminded Glendening of a story. He recounted that the final deal to bring the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore was made in an executive jet with two companions who were smoking cigars. A nonsmoker, Glendening said the fumes made him so sick he had to ask the two to stop,

“I almost lost the deal because of the cigar smoke,” he said.

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