The political career of Sen. Robert R. Neall took a nose dive yesterday, as voters in his conservative Anne Arundel County district handed an upset victory to Del. Janet Greenip, a two-term Republican in many ways dwarfed by Neall's renown.
With most returns in, Greenip was holding a comfortable lead over Neall, a former county executive who had spent 15 years in the General Assembly before defecting from the Republican Party in 1999 on ideological grounds.
His switch of allegiance startled the GOP, and Greenip capitalized on it in the race in Senate District 33, which he had represented for two terms. Greenip, a former teacher, accused him of abandoning conservative values - a message that resonated in the only county district where Republicans outnumber Democrats among registered voters.
"Everyone recognizes we need change," she said last night from Jillian's, an Annapolis bar where Republicans gathered. She said that she was the first woman to be elected to the Senate from Anne Arundel County.
Neall, 54, who won a reputation in the Senate as a budget guru and outspent Greenip in the campaign, said he had no regrets about becoming a Democrat. But he acknowledged last night that it put him at a disadvantage in a district where voters went overwhelmingly for Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, in the race for governor.
"I have never ever regretted doing what I thought was right," he said of his party switch. "I think the Ehrlich surge probably just overcame any effort we might have made."
He said it was too early to talk about whether he would return to politics.
With all precincts reporting, Greenip had won 26,275 votes to Neall's 22,380.
Greenip was one of a group of Republican challengers knocking out Democratic incumbents yesterday. In District 31, Don Dwyer outpolled Democrat Del. Mary Rosso.
And in District 30, former Annapolis Alderman Herbert H. McMillan narrowly beat Del. Richard C. D'Amato, a first-term Democrat.
In House District 33A, Del. David G. Boschert sailed to a second term and another Republican, Tony McConkey, handily captured the district's second seat in his first victory after four campaigns for public office. Democrats Steven D. Rizzi and James H. Snider trailed far behind.
Voters in the heavily Republican district appeared willing to overlook a string of questions about McConkey's past, including his disbarment from the practice of law and the state's revocation of his real estate license in the 1990s amid charges that he had mishandled money and misled partners in a failed land deal in Prince George's.
Outside Crofton Middle School yesterday afternoon, several voters said that their loyalty to the party trumped any worries about McConkey's past.
Margaret Richter, 63, an office manager and diehard Republican from Crofton, said McConkey's past was worrisome but not of so much concern that she would vote for a Democrat.
McConkey, who spent more money than anyone else in the race, attributed his victory to an aggressive campaign. "What we did well is we ran scared the whole time," McConkey said.
Here is a summary of the other county races:
Senate District 21: Del. John A. Gianetti Jr., a lawyer who eked out an upset victory over veteran Sen. Arthur Dorman in the Democratic primary, faced no competition yesterday.
District 30: Sen. John C. Astle, a military helicopter pilot, easily won a third term, defeating 26-year-old Republican challenger Andy Smarick.
District 31: Voters handed Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, an insurance agent, a fifth term in the Senate, giving political newcomer David K. Kyle, a Republican, less than 40 percent of the vote.
District 32: Democratic Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr. handily captured a second term, trouncing 25-year-old newcomer Terry R. Gilleland, a Republican.
House District 21: The three Democratic incumbents - Barbara A. Frush, Pauline H. Menes, and Brian R. Moe - swept the field, defeating Republican hopefuls Kevin L. Bruening and Bernadine Shettle in the heavily Democratic district straddling Prince George's and western Anne Arundel counties.
District 30: Democratic delegates Michael E. Busch and Virginia P. Clagett won re-election but one-term Democrat D'Amato lost to McMillan.
District 31: Democratic Del. Joan Cadden and Republican John R. Leopold won re-election, but one-term Democrat Rosso lost to Republican hopeful Dwyer.
District 32: Democratic Dels. Mary Ann Love and Theodore J. Sophocleus and Republican Del. James E. Rzepkowski were re-elected.
District 33B: Republican firefighter Robert A. Costa scored an easy victory over Democrat Dorothy D. Chaney, who ran unsuccessfully for the County Council in 1994.
Sun staff writers Gabriel Baird and Julie Bykowicz contributed to this article.