"Too Close to Call" Featured

Marc Elrich currently leads David Blair by only 149 votes for County Executive spot

County Executive candidates, left to right, Marc Elrich and David Blair speak to their supporters Tuesday night; the election results are still too close to call. PHOTOS BY NICKOLAI SUKHAREV AND GEORGE SMITH  County Executive candidates, left to right, Marc Elrich and David Blair speak to their supporters Tuesday night; the election results are still too close to call.         PHOTOS BY NICKOLAI SUKHAREV AND GEORGE SMITH  The Democratic Primary for Montgomery County Executive is too close to call.

County Council member Marc Elrich currently leads businessman David Blair by just under 150 votes, with 14,902 absentee ballots and 3,614 provisional ballots yet to be counted.

"I'm in a race against a guy who spent uncounted millions, a newspaper that strayed from reporting and just strictly made everything editorial and a group of developers that just spent a lot of money to make sure that I didn't get elected ... and it doesn't look like they've succeeded."

With all the votes from Election Day and early voting counted, Elrich currently has 36,117 votes to Blair’s 35,968 votes, but votes from absentee and provisional ballots have yet to be counted. The winner of the Democratic Primary will face Republican Robin Ficker, who ran unopposed in the Republican Primary in November’s General Election.

On Thursday, bipartisan teams will begin to count absentee ballots. In addition to the absentee ballots, provisional ballots have yet to be counted until July 5.

At his election night party, Elrich remained positive, saying his campaign had to overcome a great deal just to make it this far.

Blair took to the stage around 10:40 p.m. Tuesday, thanking family and campaign volunteers for their hard work – and said it is “remarkable” that he went from a political unknown to a contender in less than a year.

“Eight months ago, we were an unknown, a huge underdog, and now we are in a fight for our lives,” Blair told supporters at his campaign party Tuesday evening in Rockville.

The mood at Blair’s party went from excitement after early-vote numbers showed Blair in the lead, but the excitement faded, as Elrich surpassed Blair – just barely – in the vote totals at the end of the night.

Blair, a political unknown before he announced his candidacy, is locked in a tight race with Elrich, as the two bested a field of seasoned politicians. Blair, who worked as CEO of the Rockvillebased Fortune 500 company Catalyst Health Solutions, spent millions of dollars of his own money on an advertising blitz.

Blair staked his campaign, in part, on making the County more business-friendly by promising to streamline regulatory enforcement and to pause further tax increases that he said have hampered business growth. During his campaign, Blair talked about how the County’s spending was not sustainable, unless The County found a way to increase revenue – something Blair promised to do without raising taxes.

Blair made big promises, saying if elected, he would turn the County into an entrepreneurial hub, by funding incubator space for start-up companies.

On Tuesday night, as he and Elrich were just a few hundred votes apart, Blair thanked supporters and family members and said his campaign took the high road by refusing to run negative ads against his opponents.

“No matter what happens, this is not the end; this is the beginning of our journey together,” Blair told his supporters.

Elrich, a three-term member of the County Council who was forced to not run for re-election due to a new amendment to the County charter that voters passed, opted to go the public campaign financing route.

Elrich gained the endorsement of most of the County’s progressive organizations, and distinguished himself on the Council and the campaign on development issues.

While opponents have labeled him as “anti-development,” Elrich has always balked at the claims, insisting instead that he wants developers to pay more for infrastructure and schools when they decide to build.

During his speech, just after midnight on Wednesday, Elrich addressed his critics in the business community in the hopes of allaying their concerns about him.

“I want to say to my friends in the business community who seem to be totally unnecessarily scared of me ... I’ve never been against jobs and development or housing ... I’ve been against people building things and [not] infrastructure,” Elrich said. “This isn’t a development battle; this is a battle to get the infrastructure that you need to support developers so neighborhoods work, transportation works, [and] schools work.”

Finishing behind Blair and Elrich was former Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow who finished with 15.2 percent of the vote. Krasnow touted her upbringing in Memphis, saying the civil rights movement influenced her decision to get involved in politics. During her campaign she promised to not raise property taxes, which she said have put a strain on residents.

“While I did not come out on top, I know that I ran for all the right reasons, and I was humbled by the many people who contributed so much time, energy and dollars on my behalf,” Krasnow said in a statement.

Council member Roger Berliner, who finished fourth with 12.9 percent of the vote in the County Executive primary, reflected on his time as a member of the County Council, which will come to an end this year.

“I just say to you, I am grateful for the privilege for having served 12 years on the County Council,” Berliner told supporters at his election night party in neighborhood tavern Owen’s Ordinary in North Bethesda. “I loved this work, and I know our County will be strong going forward.”

Like Berliner, Council member George Leventhal, who finished fifth with 10.3 percent of the vote in the Democratic Primary, will leave County office in November. Like the other candidates who lost, Leventhal promised to support the winner, whoever that may be.

“No matter which candidate ends up being the Democratic nominee for County Executive once all the votes are counted, I congratulate the winner and wish him the best as he confronts the awesome responsibility of leading our county,” Leventhal said in a statement. “I will help and support him and our county in any way that I can.”

Delegate Bill Frick, who came in last in the vote total with 3.6 percent of the vote, declined to provide a statement on the election results when asked for one Tuesday night.

@neal_earley  @Nickolaiss


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