Democrats won county executive seats in Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel, unseating two Republican incumbents and reversing the red tide that swept the Baltimore suburbs four years ago.
In one of the night’s biggest upsets, Democrat Calvin Ball defeated Howard County’s Allan Kittleman, the Republican who served the past four years as the executive.
Ball previously served on the County Council. Historically a swing county, Howard has elected two Democrats and two Republicans as executives since 1990. As with the state as a whole, Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1.
In Anne Arundel County, Democrat challenger Steuart Pittman edged out Republican incumbent Steve Schuh. Pittman runs a family farm and nonprofit. Anne Arundel has had Republican leadership for the past dozen years.
In a brief concession speech posted to Facebook, Schuh told a crowd he didn’t expect the loss.
“Guys, this isn’t how I thought it would end,” he said. “Sometimes things just don’t go your way. … It has been an incredible honor to serve as Anne Arundel county executive, and I leave the office knowing we leave the county in better condition than it was in.”
The Democrats were driven to vote in their local races by an aversion to President Donald Trump, political scientists say. As the voting continued Tuesday, they wondered whether Gov. Larry Hogan’s resounding popularity would be enough to hold the seats for the Republicans.
“My theory of this election is whether Hogan has coattails,” said Dan Nataf, political science professor at Anne Arundel Community College. “Democrats are all fired up, and they hate Trump and want to send a message to Washington.”
Both Kittleman and Schuh were once thought of as potential Republican successors to Hogan. Political scientists said the county executive races could be a bellwether for changes in national politics.
“The county exec races are among the most interesting things to watch,” said John Willis, a politics professor at the University of Baltimore and former Maryland secretary of state. “They are going to tell us a lot more about what the country may be doing than other races.”
In Harford County, Republican Executive Barry Glassman won re-election with 68 percent of the vote. He defeated Democrat Maryann Forgan, a home improvement contractor and activist. Harford County has been led by a Republican since 1998.
Carroll County voters elected five Republican commissioners, three of whom ran unopposed in the general election. Incumbents Stephen Wantz, C. Richard Weaver and Dennis Frazier were re-elected. Carroll voters also elected Christopher Bouchat and Ed Rothstein.
The race for Baltimore County executive was among the most closely watched in the region. Democrats have held the seat since 1994, but Republican candidate Al Redmer Jr. campaigned as a strong ally of Hogan. Redmer served 13 years in the House of Delegates and was twice appointed by governors to be Maryland’s insurance commissioner. Hogan appeared at his campaign events.
A former state delegate and teacher, Democrat John Olszewski won with about 57 percent of the vote. He will succeed County Executive Don Mohler, a Democrat, who was appointed to the position in May after County Executive Kevin Kamenetz died of cardiac arrest.
Political scientists were already talking of Olszewski as a future Democratic contender for governor.
“If Johnny O is successful in Baltimore County, I think his name would be floated out there,” said John Dedie, who coordinates the political science program at the Community College of Baltimore County.