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Watson finishes Howard executive race with $43K in bank

Despite outspending opponent Allan H. Kittleman in the weeks leading up to this year's general election, county executive candidate Courtney Watson closed the campaign season with over eight times more money than Kittleman, post-election campaign finance reports show.

Kittleman, a Republican state senator who was elected Howard County executive Nov. 4, reported $4,952 in his campaign bank account, according to finance documents released Nov. 18. Watson, a Democratic County Council member, reported more than $43,000 to spare.

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It's not unusual for candidates to finish the race with money left over: In 2006, Republican County Council member Chris Merdon, who lost the county executive race to Ken Ulman, the current executive, ended with $34,000 in the bank.

Maryland election law allows Watson to keep her campaign account open for up to eight years after her last day in office, and she could use the money for a future run or transfer funds to other campaigns.

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Asked about her plans, Watson said recently that she would be "taking a few months to think things through."

"But I will still be involved," she said. "It just won't be through politics."

In addition to her role on the council, Watson is vice president for a regional insurance company.

The reports show both county executive candidates poured money into media and direct mail in the final two weeks of what turned out to be a tight race. Kittleman won by about 2,600 votes.

Watson spent nearly $160,000 on television advertising and $76,700 on mailers in the days leading up to Election Day, while Kittleman spent $95,672 on TV spots and about $43,500 on mailers.

Both campaigns also continued to garner large contributions in their final days.

Watson raised $136,472 from Oct. 20 to Nov. 11, including 45 donations in excess of $1,000 and 16 that reached the maximum individual donation limit of $4,000. Kittleman, meanwhile, collected $105,704. Twenty-eight of those contributions were greater than $1,000, and two reached the $4,000 limit.

Both candidates had outside help when it came to spreading their message. Finance reports show Watson transferred more than $67,000 on Oct. 20 to the Team Howard Slate, a group of county Democrats who sent out mailers over the summer, targeting Kittleman's record on gun control.

Kittleman transferred $25,000 to the Howard County (HoCo) Maryland Slate, which he and County Council Republican Greg Fox formed in the campaign's final weeks. The slate was responsible for sending out mailers criticizing Watson's votes in support of establishing a stormwater remediation fee and a fire tax in the county, as well as alleging the candidate had cozy relationships with local developers.

Neither candidate has outstanding loans.

With election season over, finance reports will be filed on an annual basis until campaigning begins again in 2018.

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