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Election returns: Behr takes GOP sheriff nom

In the county's only contested row office race, retired Whitemarsh police Chief Eileen Whalon Behr breezed past her Republican primary challenger Robert J. Durante in her bid for the sheriff's office. As of late Tuesday, she was leading with more than 65 percent of the vote.

Now, Behr – who was appointed to the post last month to serve out the term of the late John P. Durante -- will face Democrat William A. Holt Jr. in the fall.

Their race will make history no matter who comes out on top. Behr, 54, could become the first woman ever elected sheriff in Montgomery County, while Holt, a former Abington police detective, would be the first black man to fill the post.

But that showdown pales in comparison to November's title fight. Commissioner candidates from both parties used Tuesday to jumpstart what is expected to be one of the tightest and most expensive campaigns in the county's history.

The Democrats – led by State Rep. Josh Shapiro and Whitemarsh Commissioner Leslie Richards – see this year as their best chance to wrest control of local government away from the GOP for the first time in county history. Both were unopposed in Tuesday's primary.

"We've been focused on November for several weeks now," said Shapiro, who spent the day visiting polling sites. "I think it's going to be a critical race for Pennsylvania."

Republican Commissioner Bruce L. Castor Jr. -- who is seeking a second term this time with running mate Jenny Brown, a Lower Merion commissioner -- went further as he visited with voters Tuesday.

"This will be the most important election in Pennsylvania this year," he said. "How the county goes will indicate very strongly to national politicians who the state will go in the next presidential election."

We'll have more tomorrow as the final results come in.