Democratic County Councilman Calvin Ball will be the first African American Howard county executive as he secured a clear victory over Republican incumbent Allan Kittleman.
“I feel phenomenal,” Ball said in an interview, an hour after unofficial results arrived.
During his next four years as executive, Ball said he plans to invest in education, environmental sustainability and the opioid crisis.
“I always anticipated that with the right message…our community would come together…[and make a change for the better],” he said.
Kittleman conceded to Ball in person at about 11 p.m., according to a Kittleman aide.
“I’m disappointed,” Kittleman said in an interview, “but the people of Howard voted and I accept their decision.”
“I will do whatever I can to help with Ball’s transition,” Kittleman said.
Ball, who appeared to have been propelled by voters who cast ballots in eight days of early voting, upset Kittleman by 7 percentage points.
Ball’s margin of victory was 6,363, according to preliminary unofficial results. As many as 8,500 absentee and provisional ballots have to be counted in the days ahead but they are not expected to change the outcome.
Ball, 43, first joined politics 12 years ago as a councilman representing District 2, which includes Oakland Mills and Columbia. Alongside Councilwoman Jen Terrasa, he attracted national attention after introducing a proposal to make Howard a sanctuary county for undocumented immigrants.
Kittleman, 60, the first Republican to serve as county executive since 1996 when he was elected four years ago, is a former councilman and state senator.
Early voting turnout was up 45 percent from the 2014 midterm election, with 47,132 Howard residents voting early in the 2018 midterms, compared to the 21,432 voters in 2014, according to unofficial early voting results.
Spending in the race by the end of October had eclipsed $1 million. Kittleman reported having $268,253.47 in the bank to Ball’s $173,992. Ball has since 2017 raised $615, 041.17. His campaign reported having $88,684 cash on hand, eight months prior to his candidacy. Kittleman since 2017 raised $897,997.20. His campaign reported having $725,258.78 cash on hand, five months before announcing his candidacy.
Howard’s next county executive will have to grapple with school funding and managing the $50 million plan to mitigate flooding in Ellicott City.
The council in October agreed to partially finance the county’s plan to acquire and raze buildings in historic Ellicott City to widen the Tiber River channel and create an open space. The plan is opposed by Preservation Maryland and others who fear the change will lead to the town’s removal from the National Register of Historic Places.
Kittleman announced the plan in August alongside Councilman Jon Weinstein, a Democrat who represents the area.
Ball voted against the three funding bills because his amendments, which he believed would address the plan’s shortfalls, were not included. In reference to the current plan, he said Tuesday that he would “take time to evaluate all plans in progress for effectiveness and efficiency…and make a decision from there.”
A September nonpartisan poll found that 53 percent of likely voters in favor of Kittleman while 37 percent backed Ball. Ten percent of voters were undecided.
Ball’s 4-year term begins Dec. 3.
“I knew my heart would just be going all over the place,” Ball said, before reading a prepared statement and a poem by English writer Rudyard Kipling, at his victory party. “There was a time very few thought we would be here today. It’s because of you all that we’re here.”