In Carroll County, former firefighter Stephen Wantz defeated incumbent Commissioner Robin Frazier, who made national news by insisting on a Christian prayer before meetings despite a federal order to stop. Frazier's position was ultimately vindicated by the Supreme Court, but Wantz won in part by telling voters Frazier acted as a lightning rod at the expense of doing work for her constituents.

"They put up silly signs that said that I was the 'Democrat's choice,'" Wantz said. "I think that backfired on them because people are tired of the silly games."

Over in Cecil County, chair of the Tea Party Caucus and three-term Del. Mike Smigiel lost his seat in a crowded primary contest. While Smigiel concedes that several factors were at play in his race, he said that he lost establishment support because he was a libertarian willing to work with Democrats to decriminalize marijuana and pay for birth control in order to reduce the frequency of abortions.

"There are two parts to the party," Smigiel said. "You have one that puts the Constitution at the head of everything they do. You have another part of the party who puts the party ahead of everything, and they're the ones right now who are pulling the strings."

In Frederick County, an arch-conservative ousted the Senate minority leader. Del. Michael Hough went after Sen. David Brinkley for casting votes in favor of the state budget, even though Brinkley cast votes against the individual taxes the budget contained. Hough won, 68 percent to 32 percent.

The previous Senate minority leader, E.J. Pipkin, moved to Texas last year to pursue a second career in sports management. Pipkin's former chief of staff John Fiastro, who is also chairman of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, said he doesn't see the party's internal divisions as a problem.

"The tensions are a sign that we've got a healthy, growing party," he said. "If everyone was 'go along to get along,' that would scream of complacency."

Baltimore Sun reporter Michael Dresser contributed to this article.