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Shellenberger closes in on nomination for state’s attorney

Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger and his opponent Robbie Leonard.
Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger and his opponent Robbie Leonard.

The hard-fought contest in the Democratic primary for Baltimore County State’s Attorney appears to be over.

After a day of counting provisional ballots, incumbent Scott Shellenberger widened his lead over challenger Robbie Leonard. Shellenberger is ahead by 1,932 votes.

County elections board attorney Andrew Bailey said there are about 3,000 mail-in ballots left to count. That will take place on Friday. The county board of elections plans to certify the election after those votes are counted.

Leonard did not concede Wednesday night, saying he is waiting for every vote to be counted.

“The math is what it is," Leonard said. "Miracles can happen.”

Shellenberger did not respond to a request for comment.

Community College of Baltimore County political analyst John Dedie said, “I think at this point when I look at where this race is going, there’s an old expression, the opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings, but right now I hear her humming.”

Dedie said Leonard has too many votes to make up and so far Shellenberger has dominated the mail-in ballot count.

“I think a lot of these voters who voted by mail were more conservative in nature of how they view politics,” Dedie said. “They’re not looking for dramatic change.”

After the early voting and election night ballots were counted, Leonard held a slim lead on Shellenberger. But once the mail-in ballots began to be tallied, Shellenberger took the lead.

Leonard said his campaign got people thinking about the state’s attorney’s office and its impact on justice and safety in Baltimore County.

“That conversation would not have happened if we had an incumbent running unopposed for a fourth straight election,” Leonard said.

Leonard ran an aggressive campaign against Shellenberger, who had not faced an opponent in the Democratic primary since he was first elected in 2006. Leonard attacked Shellenberger’s record in prosecuting sexual assault cases, questioned his ties to the Fraternal Order of Police and criticized him for not running a more transparent office.

Leonard set the tone for the campaign when the candidates debated for the first time in November at a forum sponsored by the Randallstown Branch of the NAACP.

He attacked Shellenberger on several fronts, including his acceptance of campaign donations from the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police.

Leonard said, “We need to sever ties so that the people of Baltimore County know that we work for the people, not a police union.”

Shellenberger countered that Leonard, a Towson attorney, was too inexperienced to be state’s attorney.

Meanwhile, two Baltimore County Council races in the Democratic primary that were too close to call on election night were decided by the mail-in count earlier this week.

In the first council district, which includes Catonsville and Arbutus, Del. Pat Young defeated businessman Paul Dongarra. In the sixth council district, which includes Towson, longtime community activist Mike Ertel won over businessman Shafiyq Hinton.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2