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Harford election season heats up; two executive candidates on board

The filing deadline is just days away, and while a number of candidates have filed for Harford County executive and county council, a few slots remain open in both the Democratic and Republican party primary races.

Candidates for county and state offices have until 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, to file.

There will be a contest for county executive, at least in the general election, but as of Thursday it remained to be seen if either candidate who has filed will have a primary opponent.

Republican State Sen. Barry Glassman, of Darlington, was first to announce and to file for the county's top elected post, way back in August, and has been considered a contender for county executive for several years. In addition to serving in the State Senate since 2009, Glassman has served in the House of Delegates and was a county councilman for eight years prior to moving on to Annapolis.

A political newcomer from Bel Air, Joseph Werner, is also running for county executive; he filed his candidacy last week.

Werner, a Democrat, was quick to dismiss the Republican Glassman, saying "he is not really someone who keeps in touch with the county."

"The [Harford] delegation [to Annapolis] has an extremely low approval rating," he said. "He's got experience but he is not very popular."

Werner, who works as an estate attorney in Washington, D.C., after growing up in Harford, ran for Congress once in 2008 but has never held political office, he said.

Barring additional candidates entering the race before this Tuesday's filing deadline, Glassman and Werner will have a clear path through the June 24 primary election and on to the Nov. 4 general election in their bids to succeed incumbent Harford County Executive David Craig.

Craig, who is ineligible to run again because of county charter term limits, is seeking the Republican nomination for governor.

While incumbent Billy Boniface is stepping down as council president after his term expires in December, incumbent council members Joe Woods, Dion Guthrie, Chad Shrodes and Jim McMahan have all filed to run for their seats.

Two other council incumbents, Dick Slutzky and Mary Ann Lisanti, are running for other offices.

Council President

Slutzky, an Aberdeen resident and a council member since 2002, is running for council president, one in a field that gets more crowded by the day. In addition to Slutzky, other Republicans seeking the council presidency are Todd Paterniti, of Abingdon, and former council president and councilman Robert Wagner, of Bel Air.

Two Democrats have also entered the race, board of education member Jim Thornton, from Bel Air, and Christopher Boardman, of Joppatowne, who has unsuccessfully run for county office in the past.

The 56-year-old Wagner served as a councilman from 1990 to 2002 and as council president from 2002 to 2006, when he lost his re-election bid to Boniface. He ran for county executive in 2010 but was defeated by Craig in the Republican primary.

"There has been a lack of accountability and oversight by our council and there is a need to make our local government more responsible," Wagner, a Republican, wrote in an e-mail about his decision to run.

"I look forward to the challenges ahead and embrace the opportunity to serve the people of Harford County over the next four years," he wrote.

Council districts

Though redistricting since the 2010 election has made some subtle changes in the boundaries of the six council districts, none of the incumbents was placed into a district with another incumbent.

Guthrie, who represents District A covering Edgewood and Joppatowne, said he considered running for county executive and says he even paid $10,000 to study the possibility. Like Slutzky, he has been a council member since 2002.

"I was looking at county executive and I did a very expensive poll, but my wife really didn't want me to do it," he said.

No other Democrats have filed for the District A seat, but Republican Mike Perrone Jr., of Joppa, has filed for the Republican nomination. He is a first-time candidate.

In District B, covering Fallston and Abingdon, Woods, a Republican from Fallston, has filed and, as of Tuesday, did not have an opponent in either party. He joined the council in 2009, filling a vacant seat by appointment, and then won a full term in 2010.

McMahan, whose District C covers the greater Bel Air area and Forest Hill, filed for election Feb. 6.

Republican Eric Daxon, of Bel Air, filed for the District C seat on Jan. 23. Daxon is another first-time candidate who says on his website he formerly worked at Verizon until late December, when he left "to pursue a new path – serving and protecting America."

Democrat Gina Kazimir, of Bel Air, owner of the local communications firm PR Right Now, also filed for the District C seat and is another first-time candidate.

The race for the Republican nomination for District D, representing the county's northern tier, could be among the most contested local primaries, as incumbent Councilman Chad Shrodes competes against Johnathan Grimmel.

Grimmel, who is set to graduate from High Point University in North Carolina in May, is a newcomer to Harford politics, but is a member of a well-known Harford farming family.

The 21-year-old also claims he will be the youngest person to run for county council in its history. He works part-time for his father's paving business and has been caring for family members who are ill.

Grimmel said he has been considering running for a long time.

"I have always been passionate about politics, just because most people my age don't really realize how much politics, both local and national, affect our everyday lives," Grimmel said.

Shrodes, a Republican from Norrisville, whose District D covers the county's northern tier, filed last June for a third term.

Shrodes is a real estate agent for Long & Foster and said he is "just going to run on my experience."

"I'm just running on my experience as a fiscal conservative and community advocate," he said.

He wasn't the first, however, because Grimmel, of Monkton, got into the race a week earlier. As of Tuesday, no Democrats had filed.

With Slutzky running for council president, the District E seat, covering Aberdeen and Churchville, will be someone else's for the taking.

As of Thursday, however, just two candidates had filed in District E, Democrat Duvowel M. Peaker, of Aberdeen, and Republican Blane Miller, also of Aberdeen, who filed Tuesday.

With Lisanti, a Democrat, deciding to run for the legislature, the District F seat, covering Havre de Grace and Riverside, is also up for grabs.

Joe Smith, a Democrat who has served as Havre de Grace city councilman since 2012, has filed, as have two Republicans, Monica Worrell, of Havre de Grace, and Curtis L. Beulah, of Abingdon.

Worrell is a former spokesperson for the Harford County Sheriff's Office and is active in the local tourism industry. Beulah, an Army veteran, is president of Diamond Financial Group, has been active in local Republican groups and was vice president of Club Conservative, according to his website.

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