BEL AIR -- Delegate Eileen M. Rehrmann was officially declared the winner last night of the close Harford County executive race, outpolling former Bel Air Mayor Geoffrey R. Close by a margin of 775 votes.
Harford's Board of Elections counted nearly 1,300 absentee ballots from four precincts to decide the race, the closest in a general election since the county began charter government 16 years ago.
"We're glad that the election is finalized," said a weary but happy Mrs. Rehrmann, who increased her Tuesday night lead by twovotes. "Everybody was surprised at how close it was up here after seeing what happened in Anne Arundel, Baltimore County and Howard County."
Mrs. Rehrmann, 46, of Bel Air, is the first woman elected Harford County executive. She will be sworn in next month to succeed two-term Executive Habern W. Freeman Jr., who was elected Tuesday as a state senator from District 34.
Mrs. Rehrmann said her campaign manager, George Harrison, will chair her transition team, overseeing appointment of a core staff and decisions about which current department heads will remain.
A two-term delegate, Mrs. Rehrmann campaigned on her experience first as a Bel Air town commissioner and then in the House of Delegates. She received numerous political endorsements, most notably from Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
She raised $225,000 for her campaign -- a county record -- and cruised to a 2-to-1 Democratic primary win in September over her main rival, Councilwoman Barbara A. Risacher.
Mrs. Rehrmann said that she had expected a similar result in the general election but that she was hurt by a spillover of recent state fiscal problems.
Despite being outspent 5-to-1, Mr. Close surprised county political observers by almost pulling off an upset. His campaign gained momentum in the closing weeks.
In another close race, Republican Susan B. Heselton retained her lead over former County Executive Charles B. Anderson Jr. to win the District A seat on the County Council by a margin of 316 votes. The council will have five Republican and two Democratic members, the reverse of the current makeup.
The results of the race for Harford County executive are:
Eileen M. Rehrmann 23,028
Geoffrey R. Close 22,253