Steuart Pittman secured a second term as Anne Arundel County executive, as mail-in ballots tallied on Tuesday pulled him into a narrow lead over Republican Jessica Haire in the contested race.
As ballot canvassing stretched into its fifth day on Tuesday, Pittman squeaked ahead of Haire by just 192 votes with tens of thousands more mail votes remaining to be counted. Pittman has been winning mail ballots by a more than 2-to-1 margin so far.
At a press conference at his Glen Burnie campaign office Wednesday morning, Pittman thanked county voters for their support, flanked on both sides by representatives of the county’s police and firefighters’ unions and community organizations.
“It’s time to get to work,” Pittman said. “We have a lot of promises to keep just like we did four years ago, and I will be working with the people behind me and all of the residents of this county to deliver on those promises.”
Pittman trailed his challenger by nearly 11,000 votes after early voting and Election Day ballots were counted last Tuesday. But the race remained too close to call: Anne Arundel is among the counties that did not begin counting mail-in ballots until after Election Day.
Pittman’s campaign repeatedly expressed confidence that the mail-in ballots, which tend to be used by Democrats more than by Republicans, would secure him the top job in the county of 590,000 residents, which stretches from the Baltimore City line to south of Washington, D.C.
With over 30,000 ballots left to count, Pittman’s campaign expects to ultimately win by around 15,000 votes, which would put him ahead by 5 to 7 percentage points. Pittman won his 2018 election by 4.7% margin. The board of elections’ deadline to finish tallying the ballots is this Friday.
In a Facebook post Wednesday morning, Haire publicly conceded the election.
“I’m beyond proud of the race we ran. Our team pushed back against lies and hyper-partisan false narratives, while staying relentlessly focused on effective management of local government and a commitment to facilitating shared success among communities,” she wrote.
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, waged an aggressive campaign for the position: She loaned her campaign $575,000 and flooded the airwaves with political ads in the campaign’s final weeks.
Pittman’s campaign messaging centered on his accomplishments while in office: 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. He also won endorsements from the police and teachers unions.
“[The election] came down to things like, what’s the role of government, how big should government be? What services should government deliver?” Pittman said in an interview with The Baltimore Banner. “It was about the institutions of government.”
His opponent’s plans to cut taxes “would have really decimated some of our departments,” he said.
Pittman spoke Wednesday about the lengthy ballot counting process in Anne Arundel and criticized the county’s decision to not begin counting ballots until after election night. “I don’t think anybody’s benefited from waiting,” said Pittman. “This election would have been called on election night.”
Pittman criticized Haire throughout the campaign 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 would get things done. “We don’t need big promises and even bigger budgets — we need better local leadership,” she said in one ad.
As they headed to cast their votes on Election Day, some voters echoed those concerns, citing high taxes. Others pointed out that the area’s property taxes remain relatively lower than other jurisdictions.
Pittman faced criticism from some voters for restrictions he put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But others cited his decisive approach as a reason to support him.
Others suggested that they were voting for the Democrat out of concern for protecting women’s reproductive rights in the county.
Anne Arundel County voters also decided seven contested County Council races pitting Republicans against Democrats. Democrats now hold a 4-3 advantage. Pittman’s campaign said Wednesday that it expected that party split to hold as the rest of the ballots are tallied.
By Wednesday, County Council Chair Lisa Rodvien, a Democrat, held a lead over Republican Mike Pantelides in District 6. In other races, Democrat Pete Smith led Republican Jeremy Shifflett in District 1; Democratic incumbent Allison Pickard held a lead over Republican Noel J. Smith; Democrat Julie Hummer led Republican Cheryl Renshaw by a 2-1 margin in District 4; Republicans Amanda Fielder, Nathan Volke and Shannon Leadbetter held strong leads in their districts.