Baltimore County voters made their selections in the primary races for state attorney, county council and county executive ahead of the November all-around contest.

Returns were incomplete on Tuesday evening, with polling stations closing at 8 p.m. and a large number of ballots still to be counted.

In the race to become 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 close 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 attorney’s handling of issues including sexual assaults, police shootings and other cases.

A former public defender who now works in private practice, Leonard is secretary of the Democratic Party of Maryland. He ran on a progressive platform and described Shellenberger as being out of step with today’s Democrats on issues such as police reform. He supports the diversion of lesser offenses out of the criminal justice system and wants to conduct a racial equity audit looking at prosecution practices.

Shellenberger, meanwhile, highlighted his experience prosecuting crimes and said he supports 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, contributed more than $780,000 in an effort to support Leonard’s candidacy with direct mail, television ads and other campaign expenses. Billionaire philanthropist George Soros is listed as the sole contributor to the committee in the state’s latest campaign finance report, donating $884,000. Soros funded campaigns across 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 began to be counted Tuesday night.

With two longtime Democratic county council members not seeking re-election, including the only woman in the seven-member body, this year’s primary has drawn high hopes.

The municipal elections took place according to a new political map. Civil rights groups sued the county after last year’s redistricting process, alleging the plan illegally diluted votes for black residents. A federal judge blocked the county from using its initial map and later accepted a revised version.

In the southwest corner of the county, there was a three-way 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.

A Republican, Al Nalley, ran unopposed.

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

Four incumbents faced primary challengers. This included Democrat Izzy Patoka of Pikesville. He was challenged by Tony Fugett, who was one of several black candidates across the county to run for council after the redistricting trial.

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

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

Olszewski had a big lead in initial returns.

The Republican primary, meanwhile, drew six candidates.

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

McDonough is facing a misdemeanor theft charge in connection with allegations that he stole a Badillo campaign sign in Parkville. McDonough denies stealing the sign and a trial is scheduled for August 29. He was in the lead when the votes began to be counted on Tuesday evening.

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


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