Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger has won the Democratic nomination for reelection after canvassers tallied the final votes Friday, ending a competitive race against challenger Robbie Leonard.

With all ballots counted, the four-term incumbent held a 2,115 vote margin over Leonard, an attorney who ran on a platform pledging to tamp down on the prosecution of some nonviolent, low-level crimes, hold police who have acted inappropriately accountable, make more information from the head prosecutor’s office publicly available, and change the way the office handles sex crimes.

Leonard, a former public defender — and secretary of the Maryland Democratic Party — was Shellenberger’s only primary opponent since he was first elected 16 years ago. Leonard, 40, said that if elected, he would divert low-level offenses from the roughly 30,000 cases the state’s attorney’s office says it handles annually and create divisions in the office to investigate police and prior convictions for proof of innocence.

Supporters of Shellenberger said that the Democrat has demonstrated effective leadership over his tenure and say he’s been fair when it comes to addressing police misconduct; he’s charged 18 police officers for various offenses over the last decade. On the campaign trail, Shellenberger has touted his aggressive prosecution of gun violence crimes and experience leading the office.

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Shellenberger didn’t respond to requests for comment. In an emailed statement, said his years as chief prosecutor have “been my life’s greatest honor.”

“I look forward to the general election and the privilege of serving the public for another four years,” upholding the “fair administration of justice for and the protection of anyone residing or living in Baltimore County,” he said.

Speaking in the election warehouse after results were announced, Leonard said despite the loss, his campaign elevated the conversation about law enforcement reform, and the groundswell of support for his campaign shows that Baltimore County voters want change.

“Nobody thought that we could take on a 16-year incumbent,” Leonard said. “But look what we’ve accomplished.”

Leonard said it’s imperative the elected chief prosecutor establish written guidelines for prosecuting sexual assaults and audit itself to determine whether policies disproportionately affect Black residents.

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“This conversation isn’t over,” he said.

Leonard said he’ll donate the rest of his campaign dollars to the Daniel Carl Torsch Foundation, a Lutherville-based nonprofit that helps families struggling with addiction.

Shellenberger is expected to face Republican James A. Haynes, 72, a former federal labor department administrative judge, in the general election. He’ll campaign to keep his seat in November while facing a federal lawsuit alleging his office violated the constitutional rights of a woman when it sent police detectives to her grandmother’s home to stop her from filing criminal charges against four men she said raped her.

taylor.deville@thebaltimorebanner.com

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Taylor DeVille covered Baltimore County government for The Baltimore Banner with a focus on the County Executive, County Council, accountability and quality of life issues affecting suburban residents. Before joining The Banner, Taylor covered Baltimore County government and breaking news for The Baltimore Sun.

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