HUNT VALLEY — Baltimore County’s incumbent state’s attorney beat back an upstart primary challenger and will move on to the November general election.
On the final day of counting, incumbent Scott Shellenberger added 182 votes to his nearly 2,000 vote lead and edged out Robbie Leonard.
In all, Shellenberger finished with a more than 2,100 vote lead over Leonard. But the results took more than a week and initially Leonard led the 16-year incumbent by more than 800 votes.
But in the days that followed, Leonard saw his lead eroded as more than 87,000 mail-in votes were counted.
Both Shellenberger and Leonard have declined to discuss the changes in vote totals over the last week of counting. Both promised comments when the last votes were counted.
Deputy State’s Attorney John Cox, who represented his boss, and Leonard were both present in the final hour of counting. Cox initially said he would offer some comment but left without speaking to reporters after the results were announced.
Leonard said his campaign that ended in a narrow defeat should be seen as a signal for change in the county’s criminal justice system.
“We came up short of victory but we started a real conversation for change,” he said. “The voters of Baltimore County deserve that change. It’s paramount that the state’s attorney’s office for Baltimore County creates written guidelines for prosecuting sexual assaults and to follow national best practices as recommended by a 2019 task force. It is also crucial to examine policy outcomes to make them race-neutral.”
Shellenberger’s re-election bid got off to a slow start. Some observers questioned the lackluster effort as Leonard rallied a grassroots progressive primary challenge to Shellenberger.
“No one thought we could take on a 16-year incumbent but look what we accomplished,” said Leonard.
The effort attracted the attention of outside organizations including groups connected to billionaire George Soros. The political action committee spent hundreds of thousands on mailings and ads in support of Leonard.
“Sure it helped,” said Leonard. “Why would we deny the fact that mail that told voters exactly what the differences between the candidates were — the good things about me, the things the incumbent needed to improve upon,” said Leonard.
“On election day I got the most votes. After early voting when people showed up for eight days, I got the most votes. When they counted provisional ballots, I got the most votes. The more time that people had to learn about the differences between the two of us, the people chose me. So what we learned in this campaign…we just have to start earlier in making that contrast between the candidates. Had we sent that mailer two weeks earlier, I probably would have walked away the victor.
Friday marked the final day of counting for mail-in and provisional ballots in Baltimore County.
“We’re one of the only large counties to certify its elections today,” said County Elections Director Ruie Lavoie.