Del. Eileen M. Rehrmann is riding high today on the strength of a near 2-1 victory margin in the Democratic primary for Harford County executive, as she begins the second leg of her campaign to be the county's first female top administrator.
Rehrmann, an eight-year veteran of the General Assembly, took 60 percent of the vote, beating her main Democratic opponent, Councilwoman Barbara A. Risacher, by more than 5,000 votes.
In other key Harford races yesterday, outgoing County Executive Habern W. Freeman Jr. easily beat one of the most popular local politicians of old, former state Sen. William S. James, in the Democratic primary for the District 34 state Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Catherine I. Riley. Freeman, who is required by the local charter to leave the executive's seat after serving two terms, is unopposed in the general election.
James, who served 28 years in the General Assembly, including a dozen as Senate president, was one of several well-known local politicians attempting to make a comeback.
Robert E. Comes, a retired major in the county Sheriff's Department, posted a solid victory over incumbent Sheriff Dominick J. Mele. Comes has no opponent in the general election. And Theresa M. Pierno, an aggressive community activist who cut her political teeth in a successful effort to block the controversial Windsor Mall this year, ousted veteran county Councilman John W. Schafer, who has held the District C council seat since 1974. She, too, faces no opposition in November.
County Councilman Frederick J. Hatem beat his opponent, former state senator Arthur H. Helton, in the Democratic primary for council president. Hatem, who won by more than 2,000 votes despite Helton's aggressive attempt to re-enter politics, will square off in November against Republican Jeffrey D. Wilson, who was appointed council president in January and appears to have a strong base of support.
"We'll do it all over again one more time," Rehrmann shouted last night in her packed campaign headquarters in Bel Air. "We're strong in each and every precinct throughout the county," she said.
Rehrmann appeared to have the edge going into the primary, but most observers seemed surprised by Risacher's poor showing. Some observers called the primary contest for executive the bloodiest yet in the county, but others have cited the lack of any dramatic divisions between Rehrmann and Risacher.
Already, though, her Republican opponent in the upcoming general election, former Bel Air mayor Geoffrey R. Close, has begun taking swipes at Rehrmann, calling her "that girl."
"She had a low turnout," said Close, who had no primary opposition. "We've been waiting for this. We're ready to go."
Rehrmann, 45, raised about twice as much money as Risacher for the primary and had the backing of Gov. William Donald Schaefer. "The voters of Harford County are going to have to decide whether they want money and the governor" to win the general election, Close said.
Rehrmann's trouncing of Risacher, 48, was apparent almost as soon as the first vote totals came into to the county courthouse.
John P. Seisman Sr., the dark horse in the Democratic primary race for executive, received only 7 percent of the vote.
Local political insiders seemed equally shocked at the solid victory posted in the sheriff's race by Comes. He appeared to garner lots of support from deputies disgruntled over Mele's refusal to formally recognize a labor union of deputies within the department. He captured 60 percent of the vote to Mele's 40 percent.
In other contests for County Council, Charles B. Anderson, a former county executive, shined on the comeback trail by capturing 42 percent of the vote for the District A seat. He faced four other Democratic challengers in the primary and will face Republican Susan B. Heselton in November.
Democrat Jeffries Webster also posted a solid victory over fellow Democrat John R. Gaughan in the primary race for the District B council seat. Webster, a political newcomer, will face incumbent Joanne S. Parrott, a Republican, in November.
In the Democratic primary for the District F council seat, Phillip J. Barker, a retired member of the Havre de Grace City Council, narrowly beat James D. Haney. Barker faces no opposition in November.