Democrat Calvin Ball wins 2nd term as Howard County executive; Pittman locked in tough fight for reelection in Anne Arundel

Published 11/8/2022 9:41 p.m. EST, Updated 11/9/2022 8:34 a.m. EST

(l to r)  Anne Arundel County Democratic incumbent Steuart Pittman, Anne Arundel County Republican candidate Jessica Haire,  Howard County  Republican candidate Allan Kittleman, and Howard County Democratic incumbent Calvin Ball.

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball on Tuesday easily fended off a challenge from the man he defeated in 2018 to win reelection, while Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman was locked in a hard-fought contest that will likely be decided by the tallying of mail-in ballots that begins on Thursday.

With all precincts reporting, Ball, the first Black person to be elected Howard County Executive, had received more than 56% of the vote to more than 43% for Republican Alan Kittleman. Ball unseated Kittleman in 2018 as part of the Democrats “blue wave” that year.

The Ball campaign said Kittleman called to congratulate the Democrat on his win Tuesday evening.

“Education funding was on the ballot, support for our public safety was on the ballot, being environmental leaders was on the ballot, ensuring that we respect a woman’s right to choose was on the ballot,” Ball told supporters on Tuesday night.

In Anne Arundel County, Pittman, a Democrat, was trailing County Councilmember Jessica Haire, a Republican, 46% to 53%. However, Anne Arundel is among the counties that will not start counting mail-in ballots until Thursday. In recent election cycles, mail-in ballots have favored Democrats.

Of the more than 37,000 ballots that had been mailed to Anne Arundel’s elections office by Sunday, 23,000 were from Democrats and 8,000 were from Republicans, according to Pittman’s campaign.

Pittman — a South County horse farmer and trainer — was first elected in 2018 in his first bid for elective office. Haire, a one-term County Councilmember who is married to the chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, loaned her campaign $575,000 and went on to flood the airwaves with political ads in the campaign’s final weeks.

Both Baltimore suburbs have seen local seats flip between Democrats and Republicans in recent elections. Haire and Kittleman distanced themselves from the GOP’s far-right gubernatorial nominee, Dan Cox, while aggressively raising money.

Anne Arundel County

Pittman previously coordinated national programs for the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. He was one of the first leaders in the state to endorse Democrat Wes Moore for governor. Moore — who recently appeared in an ad filmed at Pittman’s farm, alongside some of the candidate’s horses — easily won Tuesday.

During his campaign, Pittman touted his accomplishments during his first term: the hiring of 100 new police officers and 500 more teachers, the county’s new AAA bond rating, and infrastructure investments to address traffic issues in the county of 590,000 residents, which stretches from the Baltimore City line to south of Washington, D.C. He also won endorsements from the police and teachers unions.

At a lunchtime campaign stop at a polling place at Severna Park High School, Pittman spoke optimistically about the race.

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“My opponent says it’s too much government — it’s grown too much. But we’ve done 200 town halls and nobody says that. They say they want more services, more parks and more senior centers,” Pittman said, as a slow but steady stream of voters cast their ballots.

Pittman criticized Haire for voting against all four of his budget proposals, which included additional funding for police and education.

Haire pledged to cut property and income taxes, prioritize funding for public safety and modernize county government. In television spots, she promoted herself as a lawyer and civil engineer who will get things done. “We don’t need big promises and even bigger budgets — we need better local leadership,” she said in one ad.

Some voters echoed these concerns on Election Day. Frank Lawson, 51, voted for Pittman four years ago but said he decided to switch his vote this year. Lawson, an Anne Arundel County Police officer, said he was glad to see Pittman’s investment in hiring additional officers, but preferred Haire’s fiscal approach overall. “She’s conservative — I think she’ll do more with less,” he said.

Pittman faced some criticism for restrictions he put in place in response to the COVID-19 threat. But some voters on Tuesday told The Banner that his response contributed to their decision to support him.

“I really liked what he did during COVID,” said Susan Kinger, 62, who works in health care. “I’m not sure people really understand why mask mandates are so important to keep health care providers safe.”

She said that criticism of his tax policy also rang hollow.

“When I hear people talk about taxes and cutting taxes, I don’t think they realize we have one of the lowest real estate [tax rates] in the state,” said Kinger. “And you know, we get great services.”

Other voters expressed concern about Haire’s social conservatism.

“Haire scares me,” said Latoya Staten, 45, after voting at Odenton Elementary School. “The women’s rights issues and the stance on gun laws, it’s really frightening for our county, for [the] future for our children, just as a woman in general.”

Staten also praised Pittman’s record on managing growth.

“He didn’t allow developers to just come in and really overdevelop,” said Staten, a former economic developer. “Just really curbing a lot of sort of that quid pro quo, the things that happened under previous administrations.”

Voters were also deciding seven contested County Council races pitting Republicans against Democrats. Democrats now hold a 4-3 advantage.

County Council chair Lisa Rodvien, a Democrat, was slightly trailing Republican Mike Pantelides in District 6. In other races, Democrat Pete Smith held a solid lead over Republican Jeremy Shifflett in District 1; Democratic incumbent Allison Pickard and Republican Noel J. Smith were neck-and-neck in District 2; Democrat Julie Hummer led Republican Cheryl Renshaw by a 2-1 margin in District 4; Republican incumbent Amanda Fiedler held a double-digit lead over Democrat Carl James Neimeyer in District 5; and Republican Shannon Leadbetter was well ahead of Democrat Shawn Livingston in District 7, which Haire now represents. Republican Nathan Volke also won in District 3.

Howard County

In his campaign for reelection, Ball touted achievements such as providing record funding for K-12 education; leading a swift COVID-19 vaccination effort; and launching initiatives to support small businesses.

Kittleman ran what he called a “grassroots” campaign, using a new program called the Citizens’ Election Fund that required him not to accept donations larger than $250 in exchange for matching funds from the county. He ran on issues that he said residents had identified as their top concerns: economic strain, crime, and school safety.

A former state senator, Kittleman promised to cut taxes, strengthen community-based policing and reinstate law enforcement in city schools.

His campaign relied on aggressive messaging against his opponent, claiming that violent crime had gone up and schools had become less safe during his tenure — a charge Ball flatly denied.

“Mr. Kittleman is running to be the Republican standard-bearer for Howard County when he tries to scare people about crime,” Ball said, adding that violent crime has decreased by around 40% since he took office. “It’s important to look at records over rhetoric.”

Some voters said they were disappointed that Ball hadn’t accomplished more during his first term.

“I feel like with what we currently have, it’s been more of a social, for show,” said Jennifer De La Rosa, 41, while waiting in line to vote at Atholton High School in Columbia. “We’re looking for somebody that’s going to actually have results this time.”

Others said that expectations that Ball would deliver on all of his campaign promises during his first term were unreasonable, especially given the pandemic.

“The entire country was shut down,” said Troy Gibson, 60. “And they’re expecting, because the Democrats came in two years ago and got this bad bag, that they were going to turn around things in a couple of days. It just doesn’t work like that.”

Five County Councilmembers were also reelected Tuesday, with all precincts reporting. They are Democrats Liz Walsh, Opel Jones, Christiana Rigby, Deb Jung (who was unopposed), and Republican David Yungmann.