By Wilbert Villatoro
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Four years ago, Kevin Leary saw his plans to run for a Maryland House of Delegates seat take a detour but today the Dundalk native not only is officially on the District 8 ballot for the June Primary but he has a ton of priorities to share with voters.
Topping Leary’s list is bullying.
The 46-year-old former U.S. Army veteran and Maryland Transportation Authority police officer is convinced that a halt to school bullying can stop suicides and school shootings. In fact, Leary said bullying is the root of the problem in the schools of Baltimore County.
Leary’s interest in bullying may stem from his own childhood, when he had to endure the taunts, ridicule and violent acts against him in school. He admitted that his three children also have been bullied. His stance on the issue has attracted parents struggling to protect their own children from abuse.
“I experienced it, but not to the extreme we see today,” Leary said. “In the age I grew up, there was almost as much bullying, but it wasn’t as advertised because we didn’t have social media.”
A Maryland State Department of Education report last year said that out of 23 counties, Baltimore County reported the most bullying incidents with a total of 743 and a rate of 4.4 incidents per 1,000 enrolled students.
Leary said parents tell him that children today are given too much freedom and often are given “a slap on the wrist” when they are caught misbehaving toward other children.
Four years ago, when Leary planned to run for office, bullying still was an issue, he said.
“The lack of discipline and the administrations lack of ability to control the environment,” Leary answered. “I talk to these people and it’s like they handcuff their teachers. The teachers are not allowed to discipline their kids.”
Leary was present at Perry Hall High School in March to witness students’ participation in a national 17-minute walkout for the lives lost in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Standing next to Leary on that day was Jennifer Cabeza, a real estate agent with Keller Williams and member of Leary’s campaign team.
“He is out there helping people even if they aren’t in his district, even helping children who are getting bullied in other districts,” said Cabeza.
Other campaign points on Leary’s list include overall school improvement, crime reduction and reducing opioid use and abuse. Leary takes a conservative bent on the issue of firearms, however.
“I believe that every law-abiding citizen with no medical and mental health issues if they want to buy, carry and wear a handgun or any other rifle or firearm they should be able to,” he said.
A Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene report said that the number of opioid-related deaths increased by 70 percent between 2015 and 2016, and has nearly quadrupled since 2010.
Leary is convinced that education is the key to stopping addictions like opioids. He said teaching young children the effects of what the drug does will help deter Baltimore County children from using the drug.
“Show them the real affects like what it does to your family, what it does to the people who care about you when you’re using these opioids and hopefully, if we can educate them, they will not want to use the opioids,” said Leary.
Leary is preparing for the primary election set for June 26.
Baltimore County Councilman David Marks,, R-District 5, said he has known Leary for a short period but thinks he “has an excellent chance to win.”
“He’s a conservative person that will do what is best for East Baltimore County,” Marks said.
Outside of politics, Leary has three children. He operates his own small business, the Maryland Executive Protection and Investigations, which specializes in fraud investigations.
“I’m just an everyday Marylander who wants to make a difference in this state and wants to see this state do better,” said Leary. “I want to help Gov. Hogan continue with what we are doing.”