Several close local races highlighted Tuesday’s general election, with state senate and delegation and the Harford County Sheriff’s races all seperated by just a few percentage points.
Sheriff Jesse Bane narrowly defeated Republican challenger Jeff Gahler in a close battle. The two went back and forth throughout the early returns, with Gahler claiming a brief, slim margin of less than a percentage point over Bane before the incumbent regained the lead.
At about 9 p.m., the mood at the Bane camp was upbeat, but by 9:45 those presented were more somber and the sheriff appeared concerned.
Just before midnight, however, the sheriff said he was just “relieved” with the close win.
“It’s been a long year, a lot of work, a lot of stress, and now I don’t have that,” he said.
Bane said he expected the race would be tight. “I faced a major effort to remove Democrats,” he said. “I was not only fighting to hold onto the office but fighting a movement to remove Democrats and incumbents from office.”
Bane added that he did not believe the filing of charges of theft and misconduct in office against Maj. Mark Forwood, one of his top deputies, just 24 hours before the election, played a role in the slim margin of victory.
“No, I don’t think it played a role,” he said. “The stage was already set months ago.”
Gahler conceded the race via a voicemail to Bane, calling Bane immediately after the last results were made public.
“It’s over, and Jesse has won,” he said. “We both ran very good campaigns. I congratulate him on a well-deserved win.”
Gahler added that he hoped Bane would take action on some of the issue brought to light during the race. Asked about his future plans, Gahler said, “We’ll see what the next few years bring for Harford County.”
District 34 incumbent Sen. Nancy Jacobs narrowly lost to Art Helton in Harford voting, but appeared to retain her seat with strong Republican returns in Cecil County. Across the district, she held a double-digit lead just before 11:30 p.m.
Harford County Council District A incumbent Dion Guthrie defeated challenger Yvonne Baldwin with 55.8 percent of the vote to Baldwin’s 44.1 percent.
In the County Council District F race, incumbent Mary Ann Lisanti edged out challenger Sheryl Davis Kohl, claiming 51.6 percent of the vote to Davis Kohl’s 48.2 percent.
Just before 11 p.m., the mood at Democratic county headquarters was somber, with those present holding out hope for Helton and monitoring the District 34A delegation race.
In that race, Del. Mary-Dulany James led Harford voting, followed by Glen Glass, Patrick McGrady with 24.1 percent, and Marla Posey-Moss. The same order followed in statewide voting just before 11:30 p.m.
Incumbent Delegates Wayne Norman and Donna Stifler maintained an insurmountable lead in District 35A voting, easily claiming re-election to their seats. Stifler said she eager to get back to work, and focus on lowering taxes and improving the local business environment.
“I don’t care who’s governor, we need people to be able to hire other people,” she said.
County Executive David Craig claimed a second election victory, with more than 80 percent of the vote over Constitution Party candidate Mark Fisher. Craig took the stage at his victory party to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “I Won’t Back Down,” telling those assembled that he would continue to prepare the county for BRAC and move the county school system “from good to great.”
Craig noted that it was his 20th election, but the first in which he did not face a Democratic opponent.
“I believe it was because people in the Democratic party appreciated what I had done as much as people in the Republican Party,” he said. In his speech, Craig spoke of “promises kept,” including education, quality of life, and economic development.
Craig said 60 new jobs are created in Harford County each week.
“Nowhere else in the state can you find anyone else who does that,” he said.
On crime, Craig said, “We’re going to make all of Harford County safe, not just the northern portion, not just the middle portion.”
Gov. Martin O’Malley claimed 32 percent of Harford’s votes with more than ha, while challenger Robert Ehrlich took 63 percent.
Moments after early voting results were announced, Democratic Register of Wills candidate Tom Hopkins conceded the race to Republican Derek Hopkins, delivering a statement to The Dagger at one end of its mobile news lab, while his opponent was congratulated by supporters at the other. In the statement, Tom Hopkins commended Derek Hopkins on a “professional, positive” campaign.
Hopkins gave the first victory speech of the night at Ehrlich/Craig HQ, asking the assembled crowd, “is this a great night for Republicans or what?”
Later, Hopkins said he would hold to his campaign promise and his wife Katrina, a 12-year veteran of the Register of Wills office, would step down shortly. He hoped that she would be able to remain in the court system in some capacity.
Hopkins added that he would cease doing auctioneering business in Harford County or Baltimore County under his own banner, but would maintain out of state business.
In the Board of Education races, Bob Frisch defeated Jansen Robinson for the District A seat, with 66 percent of the vote. In District B, Cassandra Beverley appeared to defeat Ron Eaton, claiming 50.9 percent of the vote to Eaton’s 48.6 percent. Rick Grambo defeated Lorrie Warfield for the District F seat with 55 percent of the vote.
Frisch said he was “humbled” by the result and said it was proof that voters “did their homework.”
About his oversized campaigns, one of which was pictured on The Dagger, he asked, “Does size matter? I think it did matter.”
In what was by far the most combative of the three school board races, Bob Frisch beat Jansen Robinson by a margin of 2 to 1. Robinson said that he planned to continue serving the community and that some good had come out of the campaign, “Now there will be some more eyes on the Board of Education.”
The school board race in Fallston/Abingdon District B ended Election Day with Cassandra Beverley ahead of Ron Eaton by just 291 votes.
Asked whether she was declaring victory, Beverley said that would be “premature”, and she would instead await the results from absentee ballots. With at least 473 absentee ballots to be counted in District B, Bevereley said that she was planning to attend the first absentee ballot canvass scheduled for Thursday, November 4 at the Board of
Elections office in Forest Hill. Beverley said she had not yet heard from her opponent, Ron Eaton. Eaton did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
With 7,008 votes on Election Day, Grambo was the top vote-getter among the all of the school board candidates in all three districts.
“I’m happy that the voters in District D chose me,” Grambo said, “I’m going to work hard to make sure their voice is heard.” Grambo said that he also wanted to thank his North Harford opponent Lorrie Warfield for running a clean campaign.