Republicans picked up a seat on the Baltimore County Council on Tuesday, while Democratic County Executive Kevin Kamenetz won a second term.
Five of the council's seven seats were contested in the general election, but most attention was focused on the Dundalk-area District 7 race, which pitted Republican Todd Crandell against Democrat Joe DiCara. Crandell will replace longtime Democratic Councilman John Olszewski Sr., who is stepping down from the council after 16 years.
A Republican has never represented the Dundalk area before on the council, which was formed in 1956.
In another closely watched matchup, longtime Republican state Del. Wade Kach easily defeated Democrat Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, a professor and education activist, in the race to represent District 3, which covers the northern part of the county.
Education and land preservation were top issues in the district, which is largely rural and stretches from Lutherville to the Pennsylvania line.
Kach said Tuesday night that he would focus on having the public be more involved in county government decisions because he believes residents have been shut out in recent years. "The thing that this district is screaming out for is to be able to participate in the process."
Victories by Crandell and Kach gave the GOP three of the seven council seats.
Two incumbent councilmen lost their seats in the June primary — Democrat Ken Oliver of District 4, which includes Woodlawn, Randallstown and Owings Mills; and Republican Todd Huff, who lost to Kach in the District 3 race.
On Tuesday, three other incumbents were poised to beat their challengers by wide margins to win second terms on the council. Councilwoman Vicki Almond, a Democrat, was leading Republican Rudy Stoler in District 2, which includes Pikesville, Owings Mills and Reisterstown.
In District 6, which includes White Marsh and Middle River, Democratic Councilwoman Cathy Bevins was leading Republican Jason Samios-Uy.
And on the other side of the county, District 1 Councilman Tom Quirk, a Democrat, was winning over Republican salesman Al Nalley to continue representing communities including Catonsville and Arbutus.
Two candidates were unopposed in the general election: Democrat Julian Jones, who defeated Oliver in the primary, and Republican Councilman David Marks, who faced no challengers in either the primary or general election for the Towson-area's District 5 seat.
The Dundalk campaign attracted attention from the state Republican Party, which saw opportunity in the area because of Olszewski's departure and the retirements of longtime state lawmakers Del. Sonny Minnick and Sen. Norman Stone. Job creation was a top issue, as the area has suffered economic setbacks with the closure of the Sparrows Point steel mill and other manufacturing employers.
Marks said that having another Republican on the council would create a more balanced dynamic. Although many of the issues that come before the panel — such as development and zoning — are not traditionally partisan matters, he believes that having another GOP member would strengthen "checks and balances" in county government.
"We've always had a very bipartisan relationship on the County Council, and I think we'll still try to find common ground wherever possible," he said. "But I am very proud that there is a robust two-party system on the Baltimore County Council. … I think it just strengthens accountability."
In the county executive campaign, Kamenetz emphasized what he called a record of fiscal discipline, economic development and a focus on public safety, education and infrastructure. Harman, a retired manager with the Maryland Department of the Environment, campaigned on a theme of bringing greater transparency to county government.
Kamenetz spent about $339,000 during the latest campaign finance filing period, according to state reports. Harman spent about $13,700.