The good vibrations just kept coming for Maryland Democrats Friday, as final tallies of mail-in ballots showed them winning two hotly-contested state Senate elections and the race for Frederick County executive, among others.
The final results also saw a Democratic sweep of all countywide offices in purple Anne Arundel County, along with the end of the 40-year Kittleman dynasty in Howard County.
Although Republicans led many key races on election night, Democrats on average took about 70% of the vote in mail-in ballots, tipping the contests their way.
In Frederick, County Councilmember Jessica Fitzwater (D) claimed a 989-vote victory over state Sen. Michael Hough (R) in the race to replace term-limited County Executive Jan Gardner (D). Hough led in the count until the final surge of votes were tallied on Friday. The margin was less than 1 point — 50.4% to 49.46%.
“I am grateful to the Board of Elections and its team for their diligent work counting every vote,” Fitzwater said in a Facebook post Friday evening. “And to every one of you who powered our campaign to victory — thank you. Without your support, we would not be where we are today.”
Hough in a statement said he was disappointed but wished Fitzwater well. And he praised former Del. Bill Folden (R), who won his Senate seat on Election Day.
“I knew the risk when I gave up a safe seat in the Senate to run for County Executive in a now blue Frederick County,” Hough said. “The GOP tide we had expected across America did not come, and it was especially worse in Maryland. My successor Bill Folden is a conservative Republican and will do a great job in the Senate.”
The long vote count robbed Fitzwater of 10 days to prepare for taking over from Gardner on Dec. 5. But she said in her Facebook post that she and Gardner have already begun discussing the transition.
“Now the real work begins!” she wrote.
Meanwhile, Democrats also claimed victory in the last two state Senate races to be called, in Anne Arundel County’s 33rd District and in Harford County’s 34th District.
“Good day for the MD Senate Caucus!” Sen. Craig Zucker (D-Montgomery), chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said in a text to Maryland Matters. Zucker spent much of the fall stumping for Democratic incumbents and open-seat candidates.
In the 33rd, attorney Dawn Gile (D) defeated Del. Sid Saab (R) in the race to replace retiring Sen. Ed Reilly (R), 55.35% to 44.54%. Gile also waited several days before overtaking Saab via the mail-in ballots.
“I decided to run for the Maryland Senate to bring fresh leadership for District 33 to Annapolis, including to protect our Bay, fully fund our schools, stand up for women’s reproductive rights, and support our veterans and working families,” Gile said Friday. “I am honored that the people of District 33 have selected me to be their next State Senator, and I look forward to going to work for our communities.”
Although Saab sued Gile for defamation last month for campaign mailings sent out by the Senate Democrats’ campaign committee, he offered congratulations on Friday evening.
“Today, I called my opponent to congratulate her, wished her success and offered my help if she ever needs it,” Saab said in a Facebook post. “I will continue to be available until the end of my term and beyond.”
In the 34th District, former Del. Mary-Dulany James (D), making her third bid for the Senate seat, defeated former Del. Christian Miele (R), 50.55% to 49.24% — a 591-vote victory. James, the daughter of the late state Senate President William James (D), will replace outgoing Sen. Robert Cassilly (R), who was elected Harford County executive last week. She will become the first Democrat to hold the 34th District seat since 1994.
“I’m excited to get back to Annapolis to ensure Harford County families have good paying jobs, robust infrastructure, and fully funded schools,” James said.
With the final two races called Friday, Senate Democrats will enjoy a 34-13 seat advantage over Republicans during the next four-year term, a two-seat pickup.
House Democrats also wound up picking up seats thanks to some late-breaking races.
In Anne Arundel County’s District 33C, Del. Heather Bagnall (D) secured a second term by defeating Republican Kerry Gillespie, 54.05% to 45.86%. In another Anne Arundel district, 12B, Democrat Gary Simmons topped Republican Ashley Arias, 55.43% to 44.38%.
In an even tighter race, two-term Del. Trent Kittleman (R-Howard) appears to have lost by 10 votes in District 9A, which takes in part of Howard County and a sliver of northern Montgomery County. In the two-seat district, businesswoman Natalie Ziegler (D) led the way with 17,471 votes, good for 26.63%. Another Democrat, scientist Chao Wu, was next with 17,292 votes, or 26.35%. Kittleman finished with 17,282 votes, or 26.34%. Republican Jenny Zeng finished fourth, with 20.61%.
Assuming Kittleman loses, it will end a 40-year run of Kittlemans representing Howard County in the General Assembly. Trent Kittleman’s late husband, Robert Kittleman (R), was elected to the House in 1982 and later moved on to the state Senate. When he died in 2004, his son, Allan Kittleman (R), who later went on to become Howard County executive, took his Senate seat, where he served until 2014. Trent Kittleman was elected to the House in 2014.
Democrats are expected to hold 102 seats when the House reconvenes in January, compared to 39 seats for the Republicans, a three-seat gain from the previous legislative term. However, because Democrats lost two seats in Baltimore City through the redistricting process, they effectively flipped five Republican-held seats in this election: two in District 9A, and one each in Districts 2B, 8 and 33A.
And assuming Kittleman loses, Republicans will have just one elected official left in Howard County — County Councilmember David Yungmann, who won reelection by just 1,284 votes.
Similarly, Democrats swept every countywide position in Anne Arundel County, following Democrat Everett Sesker’s upset victory over Sheriff Jim Fredericks (R). Esker pulled ahead on Friday evening, taking 104,120 votes (50.44%) to Fredericks’ 102,065 (49.45%).
The surge in Democratic votes through mail-in ballots allowed statewide Democrats to exceed their already-substantial election night margins. For example, Gov.-elect Wes Moore (D) appears to be finishing with 63.9% of the vote, compared to 32.73% for Del. Dan Cox, the Republican nominee. It was the biggest winning percentage for a gubernatorial candidate in Maryland since William Donald Schaefer (D) won 82% in 1986.