The new Baltimore and Harford county councils to be sworn in next month will be full of unfamiliar faces, after Republican newcomers upset a number of Democratic incumbents in the general election.
Drawing conclusions about the political dynamics of the panels is not easy, however. Ideologies of many local leaders do not necessarily match party labels.
And responses to some issues, such as growth, may be steered more by the economic climate than politics. A slumping real estate market and a general economic downturn could make things even tougher for the new leaders, giving them less money to work with and perhaps causing more of a need for tax increases.
The Republican victories puzzled observers in both counties, as Democrats hold nearly a 2-1 lead in voter registrations in Harford and a 2 1/2 -1 lead in Baltimore County.
The GOP will hold a 5-2 majority on the Harford County Council and has gained three seats on the Baltimore County panel. No Republican has held a Baltimore County Council seat since 1978. What coalitions may form to control voting on the seven-member body are a mystery.
In Anne Arundel County, where the GOP has been making steady gains in voter registration, voters broke the 20-year Democratic hold on the seven-member county council by electing two Republicans. They also tapped two new Democrats.
The so-called "throw the rascals out" mood seems to have been muted in Anne Arundel, since only one council incumbent, a four-term Democrat from Pasadena, lost his seat. The other seats opened up as incumbents stepped down or ran for other posts.
In Baltimore County, all three Republicans benefited greatly from the anti-incumbent mood of the voters, especially from resentment over new development and congestion in Catonsville and Perry Hall-White Marsh.
In fact, William Howard 4th, the Republican victor in the Perry Hall-White Marsh area over incumbent William R. Evans, D-6th, was surprised on election night when he learned of his victory from a newspaper reporter. Evans' defeat, in spite of a generally conservative stance and his votes against the controversial beverage container tax, baffled most local political observers.
Evans said Friday that he had had no clue of his loss ahead of time. He said he found that the margin of defeat was in several precincts in which homes were reassessed last year.
Sharply higher reassessments had sparked the taxpayer revolt that led to County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen's downfall, too. He was beaten handily by Republican Roger Hayden.
Whether the three new Republicans will form an alliance, and a base for council control or whether some other coalition will emerge is another mystery. The Baltimore County Council has to deal with reapportionment and comprehensive rezoning during its first year.
Douglas Riley, the Towson lawyer who defeated 12-year incumbent Barbara F. Bachur, D-4th, in the Towson-Lutherville district, said he credits his victory to hard work and "tremendous luck. Being in the right place at the right time."
Berchie Lee Manley, who beat 12-year veteran Ronald B. Hickernell, D-1st, in the Catonsville area, capitalized on the anti-development resentment that almost upended Hickernell in the September primary.
Two other new faces on the County Council will be independent Democrats. Former police officer Vincent Gardina defeated 16-year incumbent Norman W. Lauenstein, D-5th, in the primary, and Dundalk tax protest leader Donald Mason beat Dale Volz, D-7th, in the Dundalk area.
In Harford, where the new Republican majority on the council replaces the Democrats' 5-2 majority, two veteran Democrats were ousted: J. Robert Hooper in District D and G and Edward Fielder in District E.
Their defeats were blamed on a variety of factors. Most importantly, both were seen as the council's pro-growth voices.
Hooper, who runs a family trash-hauling business, also may have been victim of guilt by association. Two bitter land-use debates in recent years have centered on landfills.
Barry Glassman, a young insurance company supervisor and GOP activist, beat Hooper and Republican Robert S. Wagner, a farmer, beat Fielder, another farmer.
Republican Susan B. Heselton won the District A council seat despite her lack of name recognition and the fact that she spent less than $200 on her campaign. Heselton defeated her opponent, Democrat Charles B. Anderson, a former county executive, by 316 votes.
Republican Jeffrey D. Wilson won the right to continue as council president in Harford by soundly defeating Democrat Frederick J. Hatem, the District F councilman.
Republican Joanne S. Parrott, the only incumbent returning to the council, easily won a second term by beating Democrat Jeffries Webster.
Democrats Theresa M. Pierno, District C, and Phillip J. Barker, District F, both were unopposed in the general election.