Two county executive elections in major Maryland jurisdictions remained undecided as Wednesday dawned – and likely won’t be resolved until absentee and provisional ballots are counted in early July.
Hard-fought Democratic primaries for open county executive seats in Baltimore County and Montgomery County were too close to call Wednesday morning, with top contenders just a few hundred votes apart.
At the end of the night in Baltimore County, John A. “Johnny O” Olszewski Jr. was in the lead, followed closely by state Sen. James Brochin, with County Councilwoman Vicki L. Almond running third. Only 361 votes separated Olszewski from Brochin; 630 votes separated Brochin from Almond.
As is the case with dozens of other races in Maryland, the outcome will be decided by an unknown number of provisional ballots cast – an unexpected last-minute factor caused by a Motor Vehicle Administration computer glitch in which changes to some 80,000 voter registrations statewide were not recorded. Additionally, there are nearly 2,000 Democratic absentee ballots in play in the county.
With 234 of 236 precincts reporting early Wednesday, Olszewski, a former member of the House of Delegates, led with 26,698 votes (33.1 percent), trailed by Brochin with 26,337 votes (32.6 percent) and Almond with 25,707 votes (31.8 percent). A fourth Democratic candidate, Kevin Francis Marron, who did not campaign, had 2,029 votes (2.5 percent).
On the Republican side, Alfred W. Redmer Jr., the Maryland insurance commissioner and former House of Delegates member, soundly defeated conservative Del. Patrick L. McDonough, a WCBM-AM radio talk show host.
Redmer, who was backed by Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., took 56 percent of the vote, to McDonough’s 44 percent, in what also was a contentious race fraught with personal attacks and allegations.
Hogan is relying on a big turnout in Baltimore County this fall, and a McDonough victory would have complicated his reelection strategy.
Montgomery County is about to enter a new political era – but early Wednesday morning, it still wasn’t clear which way it would go.
The state’s largest jurisdiction will have just its third county executive in two dozen years come December. But the Democratic primary to replace three-term County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) was too close to call as of Wednesday morning, and it looks like it could take weeks to resolve.
Unlike the Democratic primary for county executive in neighboring Prince George’s County, which turned into a surprising romp for State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks, the Montgomery County race couldn’t be tighter.
With 251 of 255 precincts reporting, County Councilman Marc B. Elrich was clinging to a .3-point lead over businessman David T. Blair. Elrich had 34,729 votes, for 29.2 percent, while Blair had 34,277 votes for 28.9 percent.
Former Rockville mayor Rose G. Krasnow finished third with 15.2 percent, County Councilman Roger Berliner was next with 12.9 percent, County Councilman George L. Leventhal finished fifth with 10.3 percent, and state House Majority Leader C. William Frick took 3.6 percent.
The leading candidates in the primary couldn’t be more different – and neither could their supporters.
Blair is a wealthy former health care executive and political neophyte who spent at least $2 million of his own money on the race. He promised to bring a new approach to county government, focused on improving the county’s business climate. Real estate interests and The Washington Post editorial page were among his loudest supporters.
Blair spent heavily on TV ads, and his ads on websites and social media were ubiquitous.
Elrich is completing his third term on the County Council and spent 19 years on the Takoma Park City Council before that. A retired teacher, Elrich was supported heavily by progressive and civic groups, organized labor, and Democratic activists in the southern part of Montgomery County. Business groups worked hard to defeat him. Elrich participated in the county’s new public financing system for candidates.
It now seems inevitable that the two candidates will have to wait until absentee and provisional ballots are counted in early July before a winner can be declared.
“We don’t know the outcome yet, but we have so much to celebrate,” Blair told supporters last night at Badlands, an indoor play space that he and his wife own in Rockville. “We’re going to celebrate our friendships – the old ones and the new.”
The eventual winner of the primary will face perennial candidate Robin Ficker in the general election – and will be heavily favored.
Whether it’s Blair or Elrich who becomes the next county executive, either will provide a stark contrast from Montgomery’s last two executives: Leggett, the low-key consensus-builder and steward of the county’s finances, and his predecessor, Douglas M. Duncan (D), an aggressive builder and cheerleader for the county in Annapolis.
Meanwhile, it appears that the nine-member Montgomery County Council will be returning five members, assuming they win their general elections. Councilmembers Tom Hucker, Nancy Navarro and Craig Rice easily turned back challengers in their district primary races, and Councilman Sidney Katz, who has 40 years of government experience, beat back an aggressive challenge from young progressive activist Ben Shnider by 5 points.
Councilman Hans Riemer topped the field in the 33-candidate race for four at-large Council seats. Former Obama administration official Will Jawando finished second, former CNN producer Evan Glass finished third, and Montgomery County Parks and Recreation Director Gabe Albornoz finished fourth. They will be heavily favored to win their seats in November.
In the 1st Council District, Andrew Friedson, a former aide to Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D), topped an eight-candidate field.