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The recent death of Stephen M. Wright, a GOP activist and candidate for Harford County executive, has left a void in the county’s Republican party.

“The party has lost a good person as far as an activist and someone being involved in the party,” Rob Wagner, a fellow Republican and county executive candidate, said Monday afternoon. “It’s a loss for the party as a whole.”

Mr. Wright, 50, of Churchville, died last week from what may have been a medical emergency while he was driving along Wheel Road in the Abingdon area.

He was the first candidate to file for county executive, having done so in October 2009. He had also filed for the Harford County Republican Central Committee, of which he was a longtime member.

In addition to being a political candidate, Mr. Wright was a founding member of the Route 40 Republican Club and served as the organization’s president. He was also a founding member of the North Harford Republican Club.

Wagner, a former county council president, filed for the county executive position in February 2010. Incumbent County Executive David Craig is expected to announce his candidacy sometime in June. No Democrats have yet indicated they are running for the top elected office in county government.

“As far as the race goes, I’m focused on the end result as far as the goal,” Wagner said. “It’s gone from a three-way race to a two-way race all so quickly.”

Wagner said he will be mindful of Mr. Wright’s death throughout the election.

“It’s certainly not something anyone expected. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family,” he said. “That’s a tough one. I think everyone is still in some fashion of shock. Politics go to the wayside when it comes down to the family and the girls.”

Wagner described Mr. Wright’s death as untimely and said he was a very important person in the Republican party.

“We’re just devastated...I guess the one thing is it definitely reminds everybody how fragile life really is,” Wagner said. “I know everybody is still in shock and disbelief at the fact he has passed.”

Al Redmer Jr., who announced he is running for the state senate seat for District 7, which includes both Harford and Baltimore counties, has known Mr. Wright for a few years.

“I’ve known him for a few years politically and nonpolitically,” Redmer said, adding that he has been a part of the business community in Harford County for the last 10 to 15 years. Mr. Wright was a certified public accountant whose business interests included part ownership of the Harford County Airport in Aldino.

“Politically, I think Steve always added something to the debate — any debate,” Redmer said. “One of the failures of government is that government has a tendency to get complacent. Steve is one of those guys that would never allow government to get complacent.”

If government was doing its job well, Redmer said, Mr. Wright would push the envelope and challenge the government to do better.

“Those kind of folks are few and far between,” he said.

On the night of the accident, Mr. Wright was scheduled to attend the Harford County Right to Life meeting at the Abingdon library starting at 6:30 p.m., according to the Wright for Harford County Executive Facebook page.

Redmer said he was made aware of and attended the meeting because of Mr. Wright’s post on his Facebook page.

“I didn’t know anything about that meeting,” Redmer said. “Because of his post, I went to the Right to Life meeting to introduce myself to the folks.”

As Redmer was getting to leave, Mr. Wright had still not arrived at the meeting, so the president of the group asked Redmer if he would give a talk while the group waited for Mr. Wright.

“I had the opportunity to chat for about 10 minutes before I left,” he said.

Redmer added that when he left the meeting he was traveling on Wheel Road around the time of Mr. Wright’s accident.

“Obviously, it is just a tragedy,” he said.

In addition to running for county executive in the upcoming election, Mr. Wright also supported the candidacy of Patrick McGrady, a state delegate candidate for District 34A.

“I am happy to have had his support,” McGrady said. “It was definitely a great thing to have his support.”

McGrady said Mr. Wright knew everyone and was able to get the word out about the candidates he supported.

“He got the word out about me and other candidates,” McGrady said.

With Mr. Wright’s passing, McGrady said there will be big void in terms of activism for Republican politics in Harford County.

“He was definitely a really hard working guy,” McGrady said, adding that numerous people will have to step in to help fill that void. “Steve was a very active guy in the Republican Party and all kinds of government in general. Whether people liked him or not, people respected his work ethic.”

McGrady said there is also some rumbling about what the Route 40 Republican Club will do now that it has lost its leader.

“I’m going to reach out to the leaders over there and see if I can help,” McGrady said.

Harford Del. Pat McDonough, a Republican representing District 7, said both the Route 40 Republican Club and the North Harford Republican Club had a sense of energy and liveliness about them that reflected Mr. Wright’s personality. McDonough said he has been close to Mr. Wright for the last four or five years, on both a personal and political level.

McDonough said Mr. Wright tried to unify people in the Republican Party, and was also responsible for organizing the conservative movement in Harford County and getting the Tea Party movement off the ground locally.

McDonough said the traditional Republicans, like Craig, are losing power to the new group of conservatives that Mr. Wright was a part of and helped create.

“He is a great loss,” McDonough said. “There is a difference with him gone. Steve was a strong personality and a dynamic activist and he accomplished a lot in a short period.”

McDonough said he thought Mr. Wright had a shot at winning the county executive seat in the upcoming election.

“I thought he was building up steam and I think he was underestimated, and I believe he had a real chance,” McDonough said. “Steve was smart, knew issues and had a lot of energy.”

Dave Pridgeon, a coordinator for Campaign for Liberty in Harford County, said Mr. Wright embraced the principles of the Tea Party movement.

“He was for limited government, less taxing, less spending,” Pridgeon said. “He embraced it from the beginning. Unlike many, he didn’t stand by the sidelines to see if it was safe to become associated with us.”

Pridgeon said some other political figures stood by to see how the Tea Party would affect them.

“Steve didn’t stand on the sidelines,” Pridgeon said. “He jumped right in and provided leadership to the movement. I think, in his heart, he cared about the founding fathers and our Constitution.”

The Tea Party movement will continue to move forward and honor Mr. Wright’s legacy, Pridgeon said.

“He was a person who basically had individual courage,” Pridgeon said.

Former county council president Jeffrey Wilson said he was shocked to hear of Mr. Wright’s death.

“Clearly, he was the most prominent representative of what has come to be called the Tea Party movement in the county,” Wilson said. “He’s shown a great deal of energy and organization in representing the views of the Tea Party insofar as those views are known.”

Jim Massey, Harford County board of elections director, said Mr. Wright’s name will not be listed on the ballot. Krista Wright, Mr. Wright’s wife and campaign treasurer, has to officially notify the board of elections of her husband’s death.

“It goes through the system,” Massey said. “I asked the state if I should remove him. There’s a process where they have to do it based on his campaign treasurer.”


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