After three days of recounting more than 87,000 ballots, former Del. John A. “Johnny O” Olszewski Jr. emerged Saturday as the victor in the Democratic primary for Baltimore County executive by a margin of 17 votes, increasing his razor-thin lead over state Sen. James Brochin by 8.
Olszewski led the four-candidate race after the polls closed June 26 on the Maryland primary and remained out front – though at times by only as few as 7 votes – since then, during the count of absentee and provisional ballots, and finally the recount.
“I remain so humbled by the support we’ve seen, and I am excited to get back to work and back to connecting with even more Baltimore County residents in the months ahead,” Olszewski told supporters Friday night outside his campaign headquarters on North Point Boulevard in Dundalk.
Since beginning the recount Thursday morning, elections workers manually counted and tallied the 87,223 ballots cast in Baltimore County, including 2,622 “blank” ballots that had no candidate for county executive marked.
Olszewski finished with 27,820 votes, followed by Brochin with 27,803. County Councilwoman Vicki L. Almond ran third behind Brochin by nearly 1,000 votes with 26,842 votes, and Kevin Francis Marron finished a distant fourth with 2,136 votes.
Once the results were certified Saturday evening by the Baltimore County Board of Canvassers, the election board’s other role, Brochin issued a statement conceding.
“I want to congratulate John Olszewski for a hard-fought campaign victory. I wish him well,” Brochin said.
While a court challenge to the recount is permitted under Maryland law, there was no indication the Brochin campaign was considering such an action.
“I want to thank the Baltimore County Board of Elections for its hard work and diligence these past few weeks,” Brochin said in his statement. “The board went out of its way to be fair to each campaign, and always acted with the highest integrity.”
Olszewski later echoed Brochin’s praise for elections officials’ efforts during the count and recount.
“I want to thank the dedicated Board of Elections officials who worked around the clock to ensure every vote was counted and every voice was heard,” he told supporters.
Neither Olszewski nor Brochin was present at the Board of Elections during the vote count or recount over the last 2½ weeks, nor were Almond or Marron.
“I commend Senator Brochin and Councilwoman Almond for running strong campaigns and look forward to working with them to make our vision of a brighter future for Baltimore County a reality,” Olszewski said.
Olszewski, 35, will face Republican Alfred W. Redmer Jr., 62, the Maryland insurance commissioner and former member of the House of Delegates, in the Nov. 6 general election.
The general election promises to be a real test of the strength of both campaigns – and by extension, both parties – as Redmer is backed by Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., who must make a strong showing in the electoral battleground of Baltimore County to win reelection.
“Over the coming months, we will continue to build a diverse coalition and work together to create positive, inclusive vision of what’s possible in Baltimore County,” Olszewski said.
Olszewski is a former 8½-year member of the Maryland House of Delegates representing District 6 in eastern Baltimore County. A former public school teacher who holds a PhD, he resides in Dundalk with wife Marisa Olszewski and their 2-year-old daughter, Daria.
Election workers from Baltimore County elections officials and judges were joined in the recount of votes cast in the race for executive by workers from the State Board of Elections, Baltimore city and Anne Arundel and Howard counties.
On Friday evening, after all the ballots cast in early voting and on Election Day were recounted, there was no real change separating Olszewski and Brochin. Each had gained 7 votes, which was a wash. Almond added 5 to her total, and Marron, 1.
By the final tally Saturday evening, Olszewski had gained 16 votes, compared to 8 for Brochin, 7 for Almond and 1 for Marron.
The business of counting and recounting votes is tedious and can be mind-numbing.
“Can’t we just call the Kremlin and find out who won?” one observer joked privately, as the count Saturday afternoon seemed to drag on.
The observer was wryly referring to an announcement by Maryland elections officials Friday that a firm backed by a Russian oligarch has a contract with the State Board of Elections for supplying servers that hold data for a number of statewide elections systems, including election results.
Maryland elections officials said they were told by FBI agents Thursday of the connection, but stressed that at this point there was no evidence of a data breach or any fraudulent activity.
The discovery of a computer glitch at the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration on the eve of the primary sent elections officials into overdrive to determine the extent of a problem in which more than 83,000 voter registration changes made at the MVA were not transmitted to the State Board of Elections for processing.
The software hitch meant that any state resident who had attempted to make certain changes at the MVA and wanted to vote on Election Day had to use a provisional ballot. In the end, the programming error presented less of a problem than originally believed it would, elections officials said.
Maryland officials said Friday there was no indication that Russian-linked firm had anything to do with the MVA transmission problems.