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Government & Politics

Elrich Certified as Winner in MoCo Exec Race; Blair Recount Decision Looms

Montgomery County Board of Elections Chairman James Shalleck certifies the results of the June 26 primary. Photo by Bruce DePuyt.

The Montgomery County Board of Elections on Monday officially certified Democrat Marc B. Elrich as the winner of his party’s primary in the race for county executive.

Following a final round of rulings on a small number of ballots that had been challenged by one of the campaigns, Elrich was determined to have finished 79 votes ahead of the next-nearest candidate in the six-way race, David T. Blair.

In a statement that has been on ice since the evening of the June 26 primary, Elrich thanked his supporters and paid tribute to his former rivals.

“I am honored to have the support of so many thousands of residents throughout Montgomery County who agree that we can close the opportunity gap facing our children, grow an economy that works for everyone, and restructure county government to work better for all our residents,” he said.

With the board’s unanimous vote to certify the results of the primary, the battle for the third slot in the House of Delegates race in District 16 also has been resolved, at least for now.

Sara Love, former policy director for the ACLU, finished 8 votes ahead of teacher Samir Paul. Because Paul fell within the .1 percent margin needed to trigger a county-funded recount, the Board of Elections will begin re-tallying votes in the Bethesda-area district starting Thursday.

Blair faces a more difficult decision. Had he come within 75 votes of Elrich, he too would qualify for a county-funded recount.

Instead, he now has 72 hours to decide whether to open his checkbook and petition for one.

A recount would cost an estimated $189,467, Marjorie M. Roher, public information officer for the Board of Elections, said. The way the process works, she said, the Blair team would formally petition the Circuit Court to have the ballots manually recounted, with a judge determining how much the candidate would have to put up as a bond against costs that will only truly be known when the process is complete.

Blair’s attorney Brian G. Svoboda of the Washington, D.C., firm Perkins Coie attended the board’s Monday session, but he left without indicating whether the campaign plans to seek a recount.

Blair, a health care CEO, pumped more than $2.6 million of his own fortune into the race.

There was discussion after the meeting that if he goes the recount route, Blair may seek to attack the flaws in the state elections system that came to light just before voters cast ballots. On the weekend before the primary, officials revealed that 87,000 voters who changed their party affiliation or address through the Motor Vehicle Administration website or agency kiosk didn’t have their files properly updated, causing problems for thousands of voters who tried to cast ballots.

The board also cleared the way, without a formal vote, for Nancy M. Floreen to run as an independent candidate for county executive in November.

Floreen (D), a term-limited four-term member of the Montgomery County Council, submitted a notice of intent to file shortly after Elrich’s apparent victory earlier this month, when many, particularly in the business community, began to express alarm about the possibility that voters would otherwise be forced to choose between a Democrat close to progressives and the unions representing county workers, and longtime gadfly Robin Ficker, the Republican nominee.

Because she is not yet an independent, questions have been raised about whether Floreen, a lifelong Democrat, can run as one.

“I’ve looked at the various sections [of law], and I do not read the section on intent as requiring you to be of that party at that time,” Kevin B. Karpinski, the board attorney, told the panel.

“I believe the most logical interpretation of the various sections is that you have to be unaffiliated as of the time you file your certificate of candidacy, which is the first Monday in August, which is also the deadline for filing a petition to become a candidate.”

Floreen’s request to become unaffiliated has already been filed and will be considered when the state window for such changes re-opens.

The law requires Floreen’s team to gather valid signatures of 1 percent of registered voters, no fewer than 7,244, Karpinski said. The board is gearing up to have the personnel needed to go through the process of validating those signatures, a process that could take two weeks, officials said.

The recount in the District 16 race is expected to take a day and a half; the recount in the county executive race, if Blair seeks one, would run five to seven days, Roher said.

“It just depends on how many ballots have to be forwarded to the board and how many teams we can get in here. Obviously, our goal is to get it done as quickly as possible,” she said.


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Elrich Certified as Winner in MoCo Exec Race; Blair Recount Decision Looms