GOP and familiar faces in Harford

November 10, 1994

As Harford County goes, so goes the nation? It may have seemed that way as Republicans showed unprecedented muscle at the polls in a county that is nominally, and historically, Democratic.

Republicans swept the seven County Council seats, and elected a sheriff and a state senator for the first time in four decades. The party's rising strength had been seen in previous elections for state and national office, but was finally and amply demonstrated in county races this year.

Two of the biggest Democratic names in the county did retain their seats: Eileen Rehrmann escaped the Republican tidal wave, easily winning a second term as county executive. And Sen. William H. Amoss won a fourth term in a three-way race in District 35, much of his victory margin coming from voters across the Susquehanna River in Cecil County.

In fact, the majority of Harford voters voted for conservatism and minimal change, affirming the status quo even if choosing some new faces. They soundly rejected the proposal to establish a county police force. A majority of incumbents will sit on the County Council. Six of the county's seven legislative seats were won by candidates already serving in the General Assembly.

Because council members are elected by countywide voting, the straight-Republican voting played a major role in the sweep. The closest district race was between two Havre de Grace friends with similar stands, as Republican Mitchell Shank defeated incumbent Democrat Philip Barker.

Despite a one-party label, the new council is almost evenly divided on the key campaign issue of strict controls on development. New County Council President Joanne Parrott, who is seen as pro-business but not necessarily pro-development, will likely tip the balance on close votes.

Political power icon Sen. Habern Freeman, who had run in every election since Harford got charter government in 1972, was decisively defeated by GOP Del. David Craig. No dynasty, either: His son, Dean Freeman, lost in a bid for County Council.

Democratic Sheriff Robert Comes, a popular politician and a three-decade veteran of the agency, was emphatically denied a second term. Joseph Meadows, an assistant state's attorney, was the county's leading vote-getter in contested races in winning the office. Voters decided to change sheriffs, rather than overhaul their law enforcement system. While decidedly Republican, the outcome was also a nod toward the institutional status quo.

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