Baltimore Sun

State’s attorney in tight race with challenger

- By Alison Knezevich

Baltimore County voters have made their selections in primary races for state’s attorney, the County Council and county executive ahead of the November general contest.

Returns were incomplete Tuesday evening, with polls closing at 8 p.m. and a large number of ballots yet to be counted.

State’s attorney race: In the race to be the county’s top prosecutor, Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenber­ger faced an aggressive primary challenge from Robbie Leonard as he sought a fifth term.

Early numbers showed a very tight race, with the two separated by a fraction of a percentage point.

Leonard, the first Democrat to challenge the incumbent since Shellenber­ger was first elected in 2006, criticized the state’s attorney’s handling of such issues as sexual assaults, police shootings and other cases.

A former public defender who is now in private practice, Leonard is secretary of the Maryland Democratic Party. He ran on a progressiv­e platform and portrayed Shellenber­ger as out of step with today’s Democrats on issues such as police reform. He supports diverting low-level offenses out of the criminal justice system and wants to conduct a racial equity audit examining prosecutor­ial practices.

Shellenber­ger, meanwhile, emphasized his experience prosecutin­g crimes and said he has supported what he calls “reasonable” criminal justice reform.

The race was marked by heavy outside spending by progressiv­e political action committees that sought to unseat Shellenber­ger.

One group, the Maryland Justice & Public Safety PAC, poured more than $780,000 into an effort to support Leonard’s candidacy with mailers, TV ads and other campaign spending. Billionair­e philanthro­pist George Soros is listed as the only contributo­r to the committee in the latest state campaign finance report, donating $884,000. Soros has funded campaigns around the country to elect progressiv­e local prosecutor­s.

The Democratic nominee will face either Republican­s James A. Haynes or Deborah Hill in the November general election. Haynes was leading the race as ballots were starting to be counted Tuesday night.

County Council races:With two longtime Democratic County Council members not seeking reelection, including the only woman on the seven-member body, this year’s primary attracted a slew of hopefuls.

The council elections took place under a newly drawn political map. Civil rights groups sued the county after last year’s redistrict­ing process, alleging the plan unlawfully diluted Black residents’ votes. A federal judge blocked the county from using its initial map and later accepted a revised version.

In the county’s southwest corner, there was a threeway Democratic race for the seat now held by Tom Quirk of Oella, who is stepping down. State Del. Pat Young was ahead of candidates Paul Dongarra and Danielle Nicole Singley in early returns.

One Republican, Al Nalley, ran unopposed.

The district covering areas such as Overlea, Parkville, Rosedale and Towson drew five candidates, the most of any district. Early numbers showed a close race between Democrats Shafiyq Hinton and Mike Ertel for the seat now held by Cathy Bevins of Middle River. Republican Tony Campbell was unopposed.

Four incumbents faced primary challenger­s. That included Democrat Izzy Patoka of Pikesville. He was challenged by Tony Fugett, who was one of an unpreceden­ted number of Black candidates across the county to run for council after the redistrict­ing lawsuit.

Patoka had a large lead in early returns, as did other council members who faced primary challenger­s: Republican­s Todd Crandell of Dundalk, Wade Kach of Cockesyvil­le, and David Marks of Perry Hall.

County executive primary: County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., who was elected in 2018, faced little competitio­n in the Democratic race. His sole challenger was Adam Reuter, whose campaign focused on public schools and opposing government mandates related to COVID-19.

Olszewski had a wide lead in initial returns.

The Republican primary, meanwhile, attracted six candidates.

The race got heated between former state delegate Pat McDonough and Darren Badillo, an auto sales manager and deacon at Rosedale Baptist Church.

McDonough faces a misdemeano­r theft charge in connection with allegation­s he stole a Badillo campaign sign in Parkville. McDonough denies he stole the sign and a trial is scheduled for Aug. 29. He was ahead as votes started to be counted Tuesday night.

Others vying for the GOP nomination were Henry Ciezkowski, Thilo August Albert Gluck, A. Scott Pappas and Kimberley Stansbury.

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