Just a few days before Harford County Executive candidate Stephen Wright died, John Bowers agreed to become his campaign manager. Now, just a few weeks after Wright’s untimely death, Bowers, a 65-year-old Havre de Grace resident, has decided to run for the office his friend and political ally sought.
Rather than fight out a three-way Republican primary election battle against the party that had come to view Wright as an outsider, Bowers said Wednesday night he intends to run for office as an Independent, Tea Party candidate with the goal of stream-lining local government and cleansing it of the corruption he clams is running wild in the county’s current administration.
“I’m just another citizen that’s set back like everyone else,” said Bowers, who has spent 30 years in executive management and currently serves as chairman of Maryland Horse Park, Inc. Although he has run state races for other candidates and worked on a Presidential campaign, Bowers has never run for elected office and said he has never wanted to until the current situation unfolded.
Bowers said he began working closely with Wright six months ago, sometimes communicating as many as a half-dozen times a day, but resisted becoming his campaign manager until just before his death. Bowers said he wanted to get to know the candidates and the race better, and met separately with both Wright and former county council president and Republican county executive candidate Rob Wagner.
It was Wright’s beliefs and fearlessness in the face of intense opposition that ultimately drew Bowers to him.
“Wright was running as a Republican against his whole party’s wishes,” he said.
A week before Wright’s death, Bowers agreed to become his campaign manager. On the day of his death, the two men were working together when Wright said he didn’t feel well and headed home. A few hours later, Wright was dead.
After Wright’s death, Bowers said he was “disgusted” by what he saw next. The very people who had abandoned Wright and his candidacy were lining up to hug his wife, shake hands, and be seen at his wake and funeral, he said.
“The same ones that wouldn’t endorse him, the same ones that didn’t want to be seen with him were there,” Bowers said.
Bowers even claims political insiders have been pressuring Wright’s widow, Krista, to run for the officer her late husband sought – something he said he believes is unfair to her and the family.
As the county’s various GOP clubs and candidates jockey for position to align themselves with the movement Wright started, Bowers looks to stand in the way.
“There are nefarious forces at work now, as I speak, that will take away everything Steve has worked for; everything I have worked for,” he said. “I’m not going to let that happen. I’m going to expose them.”
Chief among those he said he looks to expose is current county executive David Craig. Bowers said he not only sees bloat in the Craig administration, but accused Craig of extreme nepotism, obvious developer-preference, and the worst kinds of election trickery.
“The corruption in the current Harford County administration is to a degree that is unconscionable and most of the public doesn’t know it,” he said.
Bowers said believes the three-way Republican primary election was a political trap set to siphon votes away from Wright and ensure Craig glides easily back into office in his reelection bid.
“I told Steve, this primary situation is a set up deal, you’ve got a person in there to dilute your vote,” Bowers said.
Although he is guarded with any details, Bowers suspects Wagner was cut a deal by Craig or Craig’s backers to enter the race and thwart Wright’s election attempt. Wagner was unavailable for comment Wednesday night.
Bowers said his suspicions were all but confirmed in his mind after meeting with some Craig “cronies” who urged him to throw his support behind Wagner. That was all he needed to hear, he said.
“I wanted to get [Wright] out of the Republican primary, that’s what I wanted to do. And that’s what I’m going to do,” Bowers said, who will run as an Independent candidate.
“I don’t want to have anything to do with either party,” he said. “I think the American people are beginning to see these two parties are one of the main problems we have in politics.”
Police now believe suffered Wright suffered a medical emergency while behind the wheel of his vehicle on Wheel Road in Bel Air on May 20. If not for his death, Bowers is sure Harford County would have been under new leadership after November’s general election.
“Had he lived, Stephen would have been the next county executive,” he said.
As for his own chances, Bowers won’t promise anything except a good fight.
“I don’t know if I can win this election, but I can tell you I’ll be in the fight up until the day of the election.”