Elrich lead shrinks to 149 Featured

Council member Marc Elrich still leads David Blair for County Executive spot

County Council member Marc Elrich leads businessman David Blair by 149 votes in the race for the County Executive Democratic nomination.  FILE PHOTOMarc Elrich (left) leads David Blair by 149 votes in the Democratic slot for November's County Executive race. FILE PHOTOMore than a week after elections, the Democratic Primary for County Executive is still too close to call.

Election night and early-voting totals originally had Council member Marc Elrich (D-at large) in the lead by fewer than 500 votes to businessman David Blair. Now that lead has shrunk to just 149 votes, as County election officials continue to count absentee votes.

On Thursday County election officials will count the remaining 2,600 Democratic provisional ballots. On Friday, the Board of Elections staff will count the remaining absentee ballots, which they should complete by Saturday, a likely time when there will be a projected winner in the County Executive Democratic Primary.

“At that time, I expect we will still be opening ballots...and tabulating through Saturday July 7,” said Alysoun McLaughlin, deputy election director for the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

So far, County election workers have counted all early-voting day and Election Day votes, and one batch of absentee ballots, Elrich has 36,117 votes, garnering 29.1 percent of the vote, while Blair has 35,968 total votes, with 29 percent of the overall vote. Both candidates, through campaign staff, declined to comment when contacted.

Elrich’s campaign manager, Ben Spielberg, also declined to answer questions, instead referring to a written statement Elrich put out the morning after Election Day.

“I am also humbled by what we’ve accomplished together,” Elrich said. “We were up against some very powerful forces in this election: an opponent using many millions of dollars of his own money to drown out other candidates’ messages, inaccurate and hostile coverage in blogs and newspapers purporting to be objective, and a front group for developers masquerading as a resident-advocacy organization.”

Campaign staff for Blair did not return a request for comment by publication time of this article.

Blair and Elrich emerged as the two main vote-getters from a field of six candidates.

Blair was a political unknown before he decided to run for County Executive. Blair, who has never held political office, worked as the CEO of the Rockville-based Fortune 500 company Catalyst Health Solutions and ran on a promise to make the County more business-friendly.

During the campaign, Blair promised to grow the County’s tax base, to streamline regulatory enforcement and to make the County an entrepreneurial hub with tax-funded incubator space for startup companies. He spent millions of dollars of his own money on an advertising blitz to get his message out.

In contrast to Blair, Elrich has a lot of experience in local government, serving three terms on the County Council as an at-large Council member.

Elrich’s message focused on social, racial and economic justice issues, highlighting his effort to get the County to pass a $15-per-hour minimum wage that will go into effect, with some caveats, by 2020. Elrich, who opted to use the County’s new public campaign finance system, has promised to make developers pay more for schools and infrastructure when they decide to build in the County – a message that has led to opposition to his candidacy by many in the business community.

The winner of the Democratic Primary will face Republican Robin Ficker and possibly newly-filed independent County Council member Nancy Floreen in the General Election in November.



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