Two candidates in the Howard County executive race put aside politics on election night and engaged in a rare embrace after a winner had been called.
For months, incumbent Allan Kittleman, a Republican, and his Democratic challenger, Calvin Ball, campaigned in the swing jurisdiction, which has had an equal number of Democrats and Republicans as county executives since 1990.
When it became clear that Kittleman had lost his campaign for re-election, the Republican traveled with his family to Ball’s election night party and conceded in person, with a hug. Kittleman could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
By Wednesday afternoon, a photo of Kittleman’s gesture, posted online by Glenn Schneider, had more than a thousand likes and several hundred shares on Facebook. (Schneider’s photo depicts the moment from a slightly different angle than the Baltimore Sun Media photo accompanying this story.)
Schneider, who didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday, wrote that he had witnessed an act of true class.
“Though Allan and I did not see eye to eye on many things related to county government, he has been and will always be a good man,” Schneider said in the post. “I wish people across the country could have seen this moment. When the whistle sounds and the contest is over, this is the way all political races should end.”
Howard residents expect that from their leaders, Ball said. He called Kittleman’s gesture “healing.”
“There were disagreements and divergences of philosophies,” Ball said of the men’s platforms. “We recognized that being divisive wasn’t going to be helpful in the long run.”
Ball said he felt people in Howard County are looking for leaders who don’t use weapons of divisions, but tools of unity.
“Even in a heated contest for the top position in a county, we can still recognize that we're people with families, with feelings, with both a history and a future,” Ball said. “We can look at each other as people and still care about our fellow man and fellow woman.”
Howard County often uses the motto “Choose Civility,” a campaign aiming to position the county as a model for valuing diversity, respect and compassion.
Ball said Kittleman’s kind of gesture needs to become more usual in American politics. He hopes Howard County can be an example of that for the rest of the world.