Board of Elections still needs to certify closest County Executive race in recent memory
With all the ballots counted, Council member Marc Elrich is the unofficial winner of the Democratic Primary for Montgomery County Executive.
After days of vote-counting, and a race that was too close to call on Election Night, Elrich edged businessman David Blair by just 80 votes after Montgomery County Board of Elections officials finished counting ballots late Sunday evening.
With all ballots counted, Elrich has 37,529 votes, with 29.02 percent of the total count, while Blair came in second, with 37,449 and 28.95 percent of the vote.
The results are unofficial as the Montgomery County Board of Elections has yet to certify the results, which it will do during its meeting on July 16, but as of now Elrich is the leading vote-getter with no more ballots yet to be counted.
“I’m excited, there’s a lot of work to do... but I’m excited to have the opportunity to take that on,” Elrich told the Sentinel shortly after he learned of the results.
During the next few days the Board of Elections will audit the results, but that did not stop Elrich from declaring himself the winner, while the Blair campaign said it is reviewing to see if the vote count is “appropriate.”
“While we recognize that many are eager for a definitive outcome to the Montgomery County Executive race, we must respect the election process and let the Board of Elections finish their audit and certify the results,” said Laura Evans Manatos, a spokesperson for the Blair campaign. “We are also closely reviewing the final results to determine if a recount is appropriate. The residents of Montgomery County deserve our collective patience in this important election.”
For months, six candidates – most of whom are long-embedded politicians in the County – jockeyed in a year-long Democratic primary campaign to succeed County Executive Ike Leggett. While Blair and Elrich were among the favorites, according to some polling, it was unclear how close the race was until the results from Election Day started rolling in.
While Elrich came out the leader in early voting ballots, he was quickly passed by Blair. Elrich would retake the lead late in the night on Election Day, ending the evening approximately 500 votes ahead of Blair, with thousands of provisional and absentee ballots yet to be counted.
As officials from the Board of Elections counted ballots over the days after, Elrich’s small lead gradually shrank, as Blair eclipsed him in provisional and absentee ballots. But the race was so tight that Blair only managed to gain a few hundred votes on Elrich, ending 80 votes behind him with all ballots counted. Now officials will audit the results in the coming days.
While the Board of Elections spent days counting the remaining ballots, Elrich, whose slim lead was shrinking over the days of counting, said he chose to not worry about the election, instead deciding to occupy his mind by cleaning his house and organizing his home office.
“I'm pretty zen about things like that; you can't worry about things you can't change,” Elrich said.
Elrich, a three-term member of the County Council, could no longer 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 during the campaign on development issues.
While opponents have labeled him as “anti-development,” Elrich has always balked at the attacks, 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 hope 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.”
In contrast to Elrich, Blair was a political unknown before he decided to enter the race.
While some candidates, including Elrich, relied on the County’s public campaign-financing system, Blair opted to largely self-fund his campaign, spending millions of dollars of his own money on advertising.
Blair, who worked as the CEO of the Rockville-based Fortune 500 company Catalyst Health Solutions, built his campaign around economic growth, promising to turn the County into a startup haven.
Now, if the vote total holds, Elrich will face Republican nominee Robin Ficker and potentially fellow County Council member Nancy Floreen, who filed her intent to run as an independent candidate last week.