Democrat Calvin Ball clinched his party’s nomination in the race for Howard county executive in Tuesday’s primary, setting him up to oppose incumbent Republican Allan Kittleman in the November election.
With results in from all polling places and the first round of absentee ballots, Ball trounced his lone opponent, Columbia resident Harry Dunar, with 84 percent of the vote. Kittleman had no opposition in the primary.
Like midterm elections across the country, the race is expected to be seen as a referendum on Kittleman, a moderate Republican in a blue county. He is the second Republican executive in the county’s history.
Voting at the county’s precincts ran smoothly, officials said, and only a few problems were reported statewide. Howard County Board of Elections Director Guy Mickley said the day went by without any major glitches, and called it an overall “slow” election, with roughly 13 percent turnout at the county’s polls as of 4 p.m.
Mike Crider, a chief judge at the Centennial High School precinct in Ellicott City, said that turnout was typical for an off-year election at his location, with a “slow, steady trickle” of voters. Roughly 6.5 percent of the county’s 211,820 voters cast early ballots.
Both candidates for county executive have emphasized they plan to run positive campaigns focusing on local issues.
Ball, 42, will end his fourth term on the County Council this year and heads into the general election season with $261,874.30 on hand, according to the latest financial reports filed this month. Kittleman, 59, has far outpaced Ball’s fundraisingand reports $778,234.58 in his campaign warchest.
Ball, director of Baltimore City Community College’s Complete College Baltimore program, said he’s committed to hearing the community’s thoughts on the future of the county to help build his vision for Howard County’s future, including campaign finance reform, school redistricting and mulching regulations.
“Howard County is in a good place in that we have likely two nice guys who will run two positive issue based campaigns,” Ball said. “There are enough issues that we can talk about the issues. I’m not running against anybody, I’m running for the people of Howard County.”
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Ball said one of his biggest priorities is increased funding for the school system to help keep class sizes down and continued maintenance on school buildings. However he also wants to hold the system responsible for a strategy to solve its budget deficit problems.
Former NAACP chief Ben Jealous won Maryland’s Democratic primary for governor Tuesday, promising to deliver a progressive agenda that makes college free, legalizes marijuana and raises the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Kittleman served for 10 years as a state senator before beating Democrat Courtney Watson in a tight 2014 county executive race.
As he gears up for November, Kittleman said he’s focused on highlighting his track record, including plans to build a residential detox facility for opioid drug-abusers and the continued opening of the county’s Community Resources Campus, a central hub of nonprofits and social services in Columbia.
“I don’t talk about why someone else is different than me, I want to talk about what we want to bring to the citizens of Howard County. Four years ago we ran a very strong, positive campaign and we’re going to continue to do that,” Kittleman said. “Being the incumbent changes things. I want people to look at my record, I want people to look at that and critique it and make their decisions about what my vision is for the future.”
In the wake of last month’s deadly Ellicott City flood, both candidates are also focused on how to rebuild and protect the historic district. Kittleman, who many praised for his leadership following the July 2016 flood, said he wants to continue conversations with the community and develop a “transformative” vision for the town’s future, including the possibility of widening waterways.
Ball said he doesn’t want to get stuck on placing blame for past mistakes made in Ellicott City’s flood mitigation plans, but wants to shift priorities away from “aesthetic improvements” and look at new strategies to protect the town from future flooding.