Harkins wins executive race Growth management pivotal issue in race for top county job

Party membership shifting

Election 1998

November 04, 1998|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Republican James M. Harkins defeated Democrat Arthur H. Helton last night in the race for Harford County executive, a campaign in which candidates argued over who could best manage development in the burgeoning suburban county.

In an area where Democrats once outnumbered Republicans 2-to-1, Harkins becomes the first Republican executive. The 44-year-old deputy sheriff and former state delegate won with 52 percent of the vote, compared with Helton's 48 percent.

Harkins and Helton, a 60-year-old businessman and former state senator, battled to succeed Democrat Eileen M. Rehrmann, who ran for the Democratic nomination for governor but dropped out of the race shortly before the primary. Rehrmann was prohibited by charter from seeking a third term as county executive.

With the county of more than 200,000 growing each year, residents have complained about crowded schools, lack of open space and congested roads.

As new residents flood the county and party numbers shift, the contest between Harkins and Helton tested whether the historically conservative county could elect its first Republican executive.

"We've indicated that we have plans to deal with issues like growth, public safety and education," Harkins said. "We ran a very positive campaign based on the issues, unlike my opponent."

"We're looking forward to the challenges ahead," he added.

Helton, who owns a Western Auto store in Aberdeen, accused Harkins of being unduly influenced by developers, who many anti-growth activists feel have contributed to the county's problems.

"My opponent is in the hip pocket of those we need to put the clamp on," Helton said during the campaign. He could not be reached for comment last night.

In his campaign, Helton proposed a five-year capital spending plan to address school crowding, and a zoning classification to attract high-paying industrial jobs.

Helton -- who left office in 1983 and made two failed runs for County Council in the 1990s -- said he would slow residential growth while stimulating the county's economy by working with businesses.

Harkins pledged to lure high-tech businesses to the Route 40 corridor, which runs from Joppatowne to Havre de Grace. He would create a Route 40 Technology Parkway and create a position of Director of Technology Transfer with the Department of Economic Development to oversee the project.

To deal with growth, he proposed a plan called "Holding Our Ground," which would focus on preserving farmland through use of agricultural easements. Harkins also said he planned to purchase open-space areas using the county's amusement tax.

On the legislative front, Democrats Mary-Dulany James -- daughter of the late William S. James, a state treasurer and Senate president -- and B. Daniel Riley were elected to the House of Delegates in the 34th District, along with Republican Charles A. Boutin, former Aberdeen mayor.

In District 35A, former County Council members Joanne S. Parrott and Barry Glassman, both Republicans, won the two House seats.

In the District 34 state Senate race, Republican Nancy S. Jacobs finished 62 votes ahead of Democrat Mary Louise Preis. The race between the two delegates could be decided tomorrow when about 2,500 absentee ballots are counted.

Harford voters also chose to keep the county's comprehensive rezoning plan, which was approved by the County Council last September. A group of dissatisfied residents, hoping to slow growth, organized a petition drive to vote on whether or not to keep the plan which was approved in September 1997 by the council.

A separate attempt to restrict growth failed when a Harford County circuit court judge struck down a ballot item -- Question C -- that would have placed a one-year moratorium on residential development.

In a upset on the all-Republican County Council, Mark S. Decker, 38, lost to Democrat Gunther Hirsch, 72. Decker, a first-term member of the council, owns a liquor store in Bel Air. Hirsch, a retired physician, is a former mayor and council member in Havre de Grace.

In the County Council's District A, Republican incumbent Susan B. Heselton defeated Democrat Christopher Clark Boardman. In District B, Republican incumbent Veronica L. Chenowith won over Democrat Valerie H. Twanmoh, an attorney.

In District C, Democrat Lawrence A. Richardson Jr. lost to Republican Michael A. Geppi, and Republican Lance Miller defeated Democrat Richard Norling in District D.

Incumbent Robert S. Wagner, a Republican, defeated Democrat Ronald Kupferman in District E, and in District F, Democrat Thomas P. Evans lost to Republican Cecelia M. Stepp.

Harford County

57 of 57 precincts

% * - denotes incumbent

County Executive

DTC Arthur Henry Helton (D) 33,167

, James M. Harkins (R) 36,167

State's Attorney

Frederick J. Hatem, Jr. (D) 29,706

/# Joseph I. Cassilly* (R) 37,362


George W. Cunningham (D) 20,244

.` Joseph P. Meadows* (R) 46,361

Circuit Court Clerk

Charles G. Hiob III* (D) 32,287

( James Reilly (R) 31,884

Register Of Wills

Harry L. W. Hopkins* (D) 37,201

4( William Carl Huffman Jr. (R) 26,899

County Council


Gunther Hirsch (D) 34,812

* Mark S. Decker (R) 33,255

District A

Christopher Clark Boardman (D) 22,208

.` Susan B. Heselton* (R) 41,476

District B

Valerie H. Twanmoh (D) 29,847

2& Veronica L. Chenowith* (R) 35,328

District C

Lawrence Richardson Jr. (D) 27,684

, Michael A. Geppi (R) 36,186

District D

Richard Norling (D) 26,585

( Lance Miller (R) 36,601

District E

Ronald Kupferman (D) 26,681

-! Robert S. Wagner* (R) 36,470

District F

Thomas P. Evans (D) 28,783

, Cecelia M. Stepp (R) 32,028


........... ...... For ... ....Against

Zoning law ........36,962 .....27,182

Board of ethics ...53,001 .....11,144

Pub Date: 11/04/98

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