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Republican Allan H. Kittleman beat Democrat Courtney Watson Tuesday in the race for Howard County executive.

He will become just the second Republican executive in county history, and the first since the 1990s.

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"This was about Howard County," he told supporters at an Ellicott City restaurant. "We are going to do what's best for the people. It's going to be all about you, all the time."

Watson called to congratulate Kittleman early Wednesday.

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"I told him that I would certainly do what I can to help him be successful and help Howard County move forward," she said. "We always knew that it would be close. It was a tough year, it was a tough climate for Democrats."

The race to succeed two-term County Executive Ken Ulman pitted a pair of local political veterans. Ulman ran for lieutenant governor as running mate for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Anthony G. Brown.

Kittleman, 56, is a former County Council member who has represented Ellicott City and the western county in the state Senate since 2004.

Watson, 52, served two terms on the County Council and one on the Board of Education.

The win was an upset of sorts for Kittleman. Democrats outnumber Republicans in Howard county by more than 3 to 2.

Watson, who is vice president of a regional insurance firm, said during the campaign that the county fared well under Ulman, and she would continue with Democratic leadership. She promoted her role in funding Howard's highly rated school system, redeveloping downtown Columbia and hiring police officers.

Kittleman, an attorney for an Ellicott City law firm, said the county still had room for improvement — and he was the one to take it to the next level. He ran against state-mandated stormwater fees — derided by opponents as the rain tax — and Ulman's ban on sugary drinks at events on county property, both of which Watson supported.

Kittleman's supporters gathered at Chef Paolino Cafe in Ellicott City on Tuesday evening to await results. While Kittleman trailed Watson at 11 p.m., supporters cheered results that showed Republican Larry Hogan leading Brown in the gubernatorial race.

Watson's team convened at Kahler Hall in Columbia. As news of national Republican victories came in, Howard County Democratic Party Chair Abby Hendrix said she still felt good about local races.

Watson emerged at about 11:15 p.m. to thank her supporters.

"It's going to be a long night," she said. "Go home, watch your screens and cross your fingers because we think we've got it but it's too soon to tell."

Outside Phelps Luck Elementary School in Columbia earlier Tuesday, Tomi Schon, a 48-year-old social worker from Columbia, said her top issues were education, taxes and women's rights. The registered Democrat said she voted for Watson.

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"She seems like a genuine, nice person," Schon said.

Amy Robinson, a 54-year-old chemist from Columbia and a Republican, said she voted for Kittleman.

"He seemed like he'd be a good steward for the county and not raise taxes," she said.

Robinson said Howard County already is a "great county" and she thought Kittleman would do the best job at maintaining the quality of life.

Howard voters also elected a five-member County Council and were filling four seats on the eight-member, nonpartisan Board of Education.

In Council District 1, which includes Ellicott City, Elkridge and Hanover, Democrat Jon Weinstein beat Republican Kevin Forrest Schmidt. Theirs was the closest of the council races.

In District 2, which includes east Columbia and Jessup, Democratic incumbent Calvin Ball fended off a challenge from Republican Ralph Colavita. In District 5, Republican incumbent Greg Fox defeated Democratic challenger Alan Joseph Schneider.

Two council Democrats were assured of re-election. Incumbent Jen Terrasa ran unopposed in District 3, which includes southeastern Columbia and Laurel, and incumbent Mary Kay Sigaty was unopposed in District 4, which includes west Columbia.

Democrats retained their council majority.

Eight candidates ran for the four seats on the Board of Education. They included incumbents Sandra H. French of Ellicott City and Cynthia L. Vaillancourt of Clarksville, and challengers Bess I. Altwerger of Columbia, Zaneb K. Beams of Ellicott City, Dan Furman of Simpsonville, Christine O'Connor of Hanover, Mike Smith of Ellicott City and former board member Allen Dyer of Ellicott City.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Amanda Yeager and Luke Lavoie contributed to this article.

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