Kenneth N. Oliver, a former planning board chairman, appeared to narrowly defeat Penny McCrimmon last night in the Democratic primary that could lead to the election of Baltimore County's first African-American council member.
Unofficial results showed Oliver was ahead of McCrimmon, a longtime community and Democratic Party activist, by 452 votes in the 4th District.
The district, which centers around Randallstown and includes Woodlawn, Granite and parts of Owings Mills, was reconfigured during redistricting to have a black voting majority.
In two other closely watched races, Del. James F. Ports Jr. defeated Councilman Wayne M. Skinner by more than 1,000 votes in the Republican primary for the 5th District council seat, and Sheriff Anne K. Strasdauskas was soundly defeated by R. Jay Fisher in a Democratic primary.
The results included vote totals from all precincts. Absentee ballots will be counted tomorrow.
Oliver had been the early favorite in the 4th District, receiving many initial endorsements from leading county politicians. But alliances shifted and the race grew hotly contested as disillusionment with his lackluster campaign intensified.
Noel Levy was a distant third. Clifford J. Collins III trailed him.
The winner will challenge Gail M. Thies, the lone GOP candidate, a substitute teacher. Since most voters in the district are Democrats, the winner of the party's primary is expected to win the general election.
The candidates campaigned on the same issues - crowded and underperforming schools, the pace and quality of development and the large number of group homes - while reserving their fighting for endorsements and alliances.
Skinner was seeking a second term. Ports said he ran for council because he didn't think he should serve more than three terms in the House of Delegates.
The 5th District stretches from Towson through Perry Hall to Harford County.
In the Democratic primary in the 5th District, Councilman Vincent J. Gardina easily defeated Al Svehla.
In the 3rd District, Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, 72, seeking his fourth term, beat Daniel E. McKew, a businessman from Glen Arm, by more than 2,000 votes. The winner of the primary will take the seat, since there are no Democratic candidates.
Finishing third in the 3rd District, which covers the north county, was Glen A. Thomas, a marketing consultant for colleges and universities.
In the 7th District, on the east side, Council Chairman John A. Olszewski Sr. easily defeated Debi Golden in the Democratic primary.
In the Democratic primary for county executive, James T. Smith Jr., the favorite, defeated Joseph P. Walters Jr. Smith is a former Circuit Court judge.
Republican Douglas B. Riley, a former county councilman from Towson, ran unopposed in the Republican primary.
The remaining council candidates did not face opposition yesterday.
In the 1st District, which covers Catonsville and Arbutus, Councilman Stephen G. Samuel Moxley, a Democrat, will face former Councilwoman Berchie L. Manley, the Republican he defeated in 1994.
Democrat Kevin Kamenetz ran unopposed in the 2nd District, which includes Pikesville and parts of Owings Mills.
And Joseph Bartenfelder, another Democrat, ran unopposed in the 6th District stretching from Parkville to Middle River.
In the Democratic primary for sheriff, the campaign focused on a state ethics investigation of Strasdauskas and the way the sheriff runs her office.
In the Republican primary, former Sheriff Norman M. Pepersack, who lost to Strasdauskas in 1998, defeated Russell D. Badolato and Joseph P. Callender.
In other races, two judges won seats on the Circuit Court and a third judge will face a challenge in the November election from a Dundalk lawyer who won the Republican primary by campaigning against the governor's judicial appointments.
Judges Michael J. Finifter and Ruth A. Jakubowski finished among the top three candidates on both the Democratic and Republican ballots, assuring themselves a seat on the Circuit Court. But Judge Alexander Wright Jr. , who won the Democratic primary, will face Patrick Cavanaugh, who finished first on the Republican ticket.
It was the second election bid for Wright, a former District Court judge who became the county's first black Circuit Court judge when he was first appointed in 1998. He finished third in a race for two Circuit Court seats in the 2000 primary, but was reappointed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening when a vacancy opened in January of last year.
Circuit Court Clerk Suzanne Mensh, a four-term incumbent, soundly defeated two Democratic opponents - Yvonne Clark, a benefits administrator for the city Circuit Court, and Kevin Rex Mooring, a transportation authority police officer. Mensh will face Republican William T. Hill, a longtime Baltimore County courtroom clerk, in November.
Register of Wills Grace G. Connolly was unopposed in the Democratic primary. She will face Republican George W. McCarter in November.
State's Attorney Sandra A. O'Connor, a Republican who was first elected in 1974, was unopposed in the primary and also is unopposed in the general election.
Orphans' Court race
Orphans' Court Judges Gloria J. Butta and Julie L. Ensor and Chief Judge Theresa A. Lawler defeated five Democratic challengers in the battle for the three seats on the court, which resolves disputes over wills. The challengers were Carol Andreone, Gordon Boone, Ronald Burdynski, Clyde R. Goodrum and Marlene Pianowski.
The winners will face Republicans Ray Allen, John Bunch and Louis Luperini.
Sun staff writer Linda Linley contributed to this article.