Democratic county executive candidate Steuart Pittman upset incumbent Steve Schuh Tuesday night in a surprise victory.
Pittman received 51.8 percent of the vote. Schuh received 48.1 percent. The County Council flipped to a 4-3 Democratic majority.
At Pittman’s party at Michael’s Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie, he gave a speech thanking his supporters, including police, teachers and fire unions. He said creating a more transparent government is his priority.
If there is one thing he wants to accomplish in four years, it is restoring people's faith in local government, he said.
“Anne Arundel County is going to be better than the best place to work, live and start a business,” Pittman said after the victory.
Schuh made his concession remarks at about 11:10 p.m. He called to concede about 15 minutes before that.
“We came up a little short,” Schuh said to applause from the crowd. “We worked hard and we did the best we could. We leave the county in better condition than ... we found it.”
Maryland State Board of Elections withheld numbers across the state as a record number of voters finished up in Prince George’s County. Early numbers showed the County Council flipping to a 4-3 majority.
The Democrats gathered under four chandeliers in a ballroom at Michael's Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie eating, drinking, shaking hands and chatting as they waited for results to roll in to the event.
Pittman circled the room, greeting and posing with his supporters. Among them are CASA in Action, which knocked on 13,000 doors in Anne Arundel County to help Pittman.
Schuh held a Republican party at Fado Irish Pub in Annapolis, next door to Gov. Larry Hogan’s party at the Westin Hotel. Leading up to the result, Schuh bounced from person to person early in the night, confident in a potential victory but aware of a close race.
His campaign had exit poll and other unofficial counts that a victory, but numbers acquired by the campaign Tuesday evening showed a more sobering outcome.
“We have numbers internally showing 13 to 14 (percentage points),” Schuh said. “But it is going to be single digits.”
This year’s county executive race was competitive as energized voters showed up to polls in a reprimand of federal Republican leadership. Many voters openly discussed frustration with President Donald Trump as a symbol of divisiveness.
At the county level, voters were concerned about public safety hiring, education funding and development. Both Schuh and Pittman pledged to hire more police, fire and teachers while also increasing salaries. The two bickered about who could increase that funding faster under the county’s strict property tax rate cap.
The two diverged on issues like immigration with Pittman calling to an end to the county’s 287(g) program. That program trains detention officers to screen inmates for possible immigration violations and detain them for federal authorities. Schuh supports the program, saying it is an important tool to find undocumented immigrants who have been arrested.
Pittman was able to keep the race close through strong campaigning and an overall voter frustration with development in the county. One such development was the county’s approval of the Turtle Run at Deep Cove project. The county approved the project but it was challenge by residents at the Board of Appeals and eventually stalled by the Critical Area Commission.
The county then opted to buy the 140 acres for $2.6 million, appraising the site using the approved development despite the legal challenges. Pittman accused Schuh of giving the developer — a Schuh donor and supporter — of “pay to play” politics.
Schuh defended himself from those claims, saying Pittman had a basic misunderstanding of the facts and built his campaign on twisting Schuh’s development and environmental policies.
As for Turtle Run, Schuh said the county paid a fair price for the land because the developer had the rights to build on the property.
County Council results
The previously 4-3 Republican Council is now a 4-3 Democratic Council.
District 1 — Democrat Sarah Lacey defeated Republican Kimberly Burns with about 56 percent of the vote.
Lacey defeated incumbent Pete Smith, D-Severn, in a surprise primary victory.
The light rail in Linthicum was a key issue as residents have rallied against a perceived spike in crime. Burns landed on the side of residents who want the light rail stops closed and more police on site. Lacey said the light rail should not be closed because residents need it for work.
District 2 — Democrat Allison Pickard defeated Republican Tom Gardner with 54 percent of the vote.
It seems residents were ready for a change as this seat goes to a Democrat. Former Councilman John Grasso, R-Glen Burnie, was a controversial figure who angered constituents with anti-Islamic Facebook posts and incendiary comments during County Council meetings.
Opioid overdoses, development and education were core issues in this district.
District 3 — This seat retains its status as a strongly Republican district. with Nathan Volke defeated Democratic challenger Debbie Ritchie with 64 percent of the vote.
District 3 includes Pasadena and Riviera Beach and has long been a conservative district. Despite energized Democrats throughout the country, it wasn’t enough to penetrate what Schuh at one point called “Kipke” country — a reference to the popular Del. Nic Kipke, R-Pasadena.
District 4 — Incumbent Democrat Andrew Pruski defeated Republican Torrey Snow with 66 percent of the vote. Pruski’s early voting turnout was so strong that it proved impossible for Snow to make up the ground.
Pruski was the only incumbent to keep his seat after Smith and Councilman Michael Peroutka, R-Millersville, were defeated in the primary. The other four council incumbents were term-limited and leaving their seat.
His victory means there are six new council members.
District 5 — Republican Amanda Fiedler defeated Democrat Dawn Myers with 55 percent of the vote. Fiedler’s strong election day performance — made it difficult for Myers to win.
This race was a rebuke to Peroutka, a deeply conservative candidate who linked governing with his Christian beliefs. His position on abortion and public education angered some residents. He was defeated in the primary by Fiedler.
Others took issue with his former membership in the League of the South. The organization advocates for a free and independent southern nation. Its leader has made racist comment, which Peroutka denounced. He left the organization before he was elected.
District 6 — This district maintained its status as a Democratic stronghold with Lisa Brannigan Rodvien’s defeat of Republican Michael Christman.
Rodvien had about 59 percent of the vote.
A major factor in this district was a proposed major league lacrosse stadium at the old Crownsville hospital grounds. It’s also a major development issue district as residents have strong feelings about environmental protections.
District 7 — Republican Jessica Haire defeated Democrat James Kitchin with about 52 percent of the vote.
Kitchin initially led but a rush of voters on Election Day pushed Haire over the top.
The seat was previously held by Jerry Walker, R-Crofton, who ran for delegate in District 33 but lost in the primary.
The district is diverse and includes Crofton, Odenton and Shady Side.