Primary elections for Baltimore County Council this week have set the stage for spirited campaigns this fall, with five contested races for open seats on the seven-member panel.
Longtime Republican Councilman T. Bryan McIntire of District 3 was unable to beat back a crowded field of contenders, losing to Todd Huff in his bid for a fifth term, and District 4 Democrat Kenneth Oliver led a challenger by a slim margin with vote tallies nearly complete.
Democrat Mike Ertel held a narrow lead over Bill Paulshock in District 5 with more than 400 absentee ballots left to be counted on Wednesday. The winner will face Republican David Marks in the fall. Marks is a former transportation official and past president of the Perry Hall Improvement Association. The district includes Towson and Perry Hall. Vince Gardina is retiring after 20 years on the council.
Huff will face Democrat Ben Sutley in the November general election, and several of the other victors from Wednesday are now gearing up for general election campaigns. The winner in District 4 will be unopposed, as will Councilman John Olszewski Sr., who won his District 7 primary with ease.
•The District 1 election pits Democrat Tom Quirk, a financial planner, against Republican Steve Whisler, a retired naval officer. The district covers Lansdowne, Arbutus and Catonsville. Four-term Councilman Samuel Moxley decided not to seek re-election.
•Democrat Vicki Almond, a longtime community activist and former state Senate staffer, will face Republican Jon M. Herbst, an attorney, for the chance to succeed Democratic county executive candidate Kevin Kamenetz in District 2, which covers Pikesville and Owings Mills.
•Democrat Mike Ertel, an insurance broker, will go up against Republican David Marks in District 5, which includes Towson and Perry Hall. Marks is a former president of the Perry Hall Improvement Association and former chief of staff at the Maryland Department of Transportation. Vince Gardina is retiring after 20 years on the council.
•Cathy Bevins, the county executive's former east-side constituent service assistant, will face Republican Ryan Nawrocki, who works in public relations for LifeBridge Health, in District 6. The district stretches roughly from the Northeast Baltimore line to the Chesapeake Bay, and includes Putty Hill, Middle River and White Marsh. Incumbent Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder lost his Democratic primary bid for county executive against Kamenetz.
"I'm sorry I didn't win, but life goes on and I won't lose a beat," said McIntire, who called Huff Wednesday to concede.
Huff, 42, who grew up on a Sparks farm, filed three years ago to run for the District 3 seat, which extends north to Pennsylvania, west to Carroll County and east to Harford County. He's been campaigning in earnest ever since.
Huff said it felt good to silence naysayers who felt that he could not beat a well-funded incumbent.
"I set the goal to prove you could run a good, clean campaign and not need all that money sitting in the bank," Huff said. "I raised the amounts of money that I needed to accomplish my goals and we did it."
Fewer than 100 votes separated Oliver from challenger Julian E. Jones Jr., before absentee and provisional ballots were counted. Another contender, Leronia Josey, was behind by fewer than 500 votes.
Given the slim deficit, Jones said he's exploring his options, including a request for a recount.
"It would make sense to be cautious before throwing in the towel," Jones said. But he added that a win appears to be "an uphill race at this point."
Oliver declined to comment. The district includes Woodlawn, Randallstown, Owings Mills and Reisterstown.
Oliver benefitted from name recognition and small turnout, said Billy Chase, his former campaign manager who quit after Oliver decided to endorse Bartenfelder for county executive.
"The difference between them and Ken is that Ken had name recognition," Chase said. "If Julian wasn't in the race, Leronia probably would have won. Leronia, in turn, took anti-Ken votes against Julian. So, they literally divvied up the anti-Oliver votes."
Fresh from his victory in District 7, which covers Dundalk and Essex, Councilman John Olszewski Sr., expressed excitement about becoming the senior Democrat on the council and his district's longest-serving councilman.
"Showing them the leadership abilities that I have has given them confidence at a time when we're going to have five or six new council members," said Olszewski, a three-time council chair.
Most of the seats on the council were up for grabs in the primary, with four incumbents deciding not to seek another term. Turnover is unusual on the council, which has five members who have served at least four terms.
Winners in Tuesday's primary said they were already preparing for the fall general election.
"Now we get to go on to Round 2," Huff said.