Redmer declares win in GOP Baltimore County executive race; Democrats' race too close to call

Al Redmer Jr. declared victory Tuesday in the Republican primary for Baltimore County executive, while the race among three top Democrats was too close to call.

“How ‘bout them apples?” Redmer said to cheers at his election party at Columbus Gardens in Nottingham. “You know, the results are incredibly gratifying, but also humbling.”

Redmer thanked his family and campaign staff — and looked ahead to November’s general election.

“We will run the most energetic, organized and competitive Republican campaign in a generation,” Redmer said. He said he would reach out to “like-minded” Democrats who want to see a change in Baltimore County leadership. The county hasn’t had a Republican county executive since the early 1990s.

Redmer had faced state Del. Pat McDonough for the GOP nomination.

In the hotly contested Democratic primary, former Del. Johnny Olszewski Jr., state Sen. Jim Brochin and County Councilwoman Vicki Almond were tightly locked with more than 97 percent of precincts reporting.

With thousands of absentee ballots sent out to Democratic county voters and an unknown number of provisional ballots cast, it could be more than a week before the victor is known.

The winning candidates will vie for the chance to lead the state’s third-largest jurisdiction, a county of more than 800,000 people with a $3 billion annual budget.

Olszewski, who gathered with supporters at Key Brewing in Dundalk, said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the results.

“We’re very excited about our initial returns. … We want to make sure every single vote is counted, not just tonight, but all absentees and provisionals, because every vote matters,” he said.

Brochin watched the results come in at Souris’ Saloon in Towson, where he’s spent every election night since he first ran for state Senate in 2002. It’s become a superstition of sorts.

“Baseball players don’t change their socks after hitting a home run for five days in a row, so I’m not changing my socks on this one, either,” Brochin said.

Brochin said he’s given the campaign his best effort.

“It gets to the point of a campaign where there’s nothing more you can do, and I think I’m at that point,” he said. “There’s nothing more I can do. It’s up to the people to decide.”

Just before 9 p.m., Almond came into the Diamondz Ballroom in Randallstown, smiling and hugging family and supporters.

“I’m a little disappointed,” Almond said of having to wait for results. “There’s all these incredible people here for me and they’ve been the ones pushing me through.”

The first canvass of absentee ballots will be on Thursday, followed by review of provisional ballots and a second round of absentee ballots next week.

As of Monday, a total of 3,585 absentee ballots were sent to Democratic voters in the county, and 1,279 absentee ballots were sent to Republican voters.

In the Republican primary, Redmer, 62, stressed his experience both in government and the private sector, often saying he had the most management experience of any of the candidates.

He gained the support of establishment Republicans, including popular Gov. Larry Hogan and Del. Kathy Szeliga, one of the top-ranking Republicans in Annapolis. Hogan is expected to focus on Baltimore County in his re-election bid, and having an ally like Redmer running for county executive could help him gain votes in the county.

Earlier in the day Ken Mazza, 64, of Perry Hall, said he voted for Redmer, whom he said he has known for decades.

“He will serve all constituents well, Democrats and Republicans,” Mazza said.

For Karen Phillips, 55, Redmer’s alliance with Hogan was important.

“I think Hogan’s done a good job of not being Republican or Democratic, but just good for Maryland,” she said. “And that’s what I’m looking for. I’m really tired of the parties.”

McDonough, 74, a four-term state delegate from Middle River, had espoused such issues such as making English the county’s official language and declaring a moratorium on subsidized housing.

Maryland primary 2018: Election results »

He had the least amount of money of any county executive candidate, and was the only one not to run TV ads. He handed out copies of his campaign’s “Redmer Report” that criticized Redmer’s insurance work. McDonough also alleged that Redmer ran his campaign on state time.

Shortly before midnight, McDonough had not called Redmer to concede, according to Redmer’s team.

The outcome of the Democratic primary race between Olszewski, Brochin and Almond won’t be known until absentee and provisional ballots are counted.

Olszewski is a former state delegate from Dundalk who sought a comeback after losing a state Senate campaign four years ago. While he represented a conservative-leaning district when he was a delegate, he’s touted his progressive ideas such as raising the minimum wage and ending housing discrimination.

The son of a now-retired county councilman, Olszewski got involved in government early, serving as the student member of the county school board when he was in high school and landing in the House of Delegates at age 23. At 35 years old, he was the youngest among the primary candidates by nearly two decades.

Louise Ruth, 77, voted for Olszewski when she cast her ballot at Dundalk Middle School.

“I just think he’s a good family man and I think he’s good for our county, our schools and hopefully our Police Department,” Ruth said.

Two weeks ago, Olszewski was in third in the race, according to a poll commissioned by The Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore. He had just 14 percent of the vote at that point, with 31 percent undecided.

Brochin is a four-term state senator from Cockeysville who earned a reputation in Annapolis as an independent voice who didn’t always hew to the Democratic Party’s interests — though he portrayed himself as the “real” Democrat in the race.

Brochin, 54, promised to end overdevelopment, diminish the influence of developers and protect open space. But he also spent time during the campaign fending off attacks about his record on gun control.

A pro-Almond campaign slate funded by former county executive Jim Smith sent mailers attacking Brochin for past votes on gun laws and previous high ratings from the NRA.

Timonium voter Jeanne Wilson, 66, voted for Brochin. She said it was her most important vote and selected Brochin because of his integrity.

Jay Liner, 79, attended Brochin’s election night party and said he thought Brochin was treated unfairly by other candidates who tried to “smear him” on gun control.

“He has a knack for knowing what’s important and he’ll implement these ideas when he becomes county executive,” said Liner, an attorney.

Almond is a two-term county councilwoman from Reisterstown who touted her experience. She often told audiences that in her position as a councilwoman, she’s learned what the county government does well and what it could do better.

Almond, 69, has had a remarkable rise in politics. Forced to drop out of high school to support her family, she later earned her diploma. Once she had children, she became involved in educational issues and later became a community association president.

She was supported by developers and also had significant support from former county executive Smith, now a top aide to Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh. Smith used a campaign committee to send numerous mailers promoting Almond’s candidacy and criticizing Brochin.

David Peterson considers himself a "tough customer" when it comes to politicians, and Almond passed his test. Two weeks ago, he saw the campaign on the side of Liberty Road and stopped to ask Almond some questions.

“I wanted to know her positions. I made her some suggestions and she was receptive. She didn’t shy away,” the Woodstock resident said at Almond’s election night party in Randallstown. “She gave me a sense of confidence that she had a plan.”

The next county executive will succeed Don Mohler, who was appointed to the job last month following the death of Kevin Kamenetz. Kamenetz was finishing his second term as county executive and running for governor when he suffered fatal cardiac arrest on May 10.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Liz Bowie, Libby Solomon, Leah Brennan, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Brittany Britto and Anna Muckerman contributed to this article.

pwood@baltsun.com

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