Updated at 8:50 p.m. Monday: A recount in the Democratic primary for Montgomery County executive has confirmed it: County Council member Marc Elrich skated past businessman David Blair to claim the party nomination.
Reached by phone Monday evening, Elrich said he was happy and relieved by the results, although they were what he’d been expecting. Now, he said, he can turn his focus to the general election campaign.
“After I take a deep breath,” he added.
Monday’s partial recount capped off weeks of limbo for the candidates and their supporters.
The June 26 primary ended with the race too close to call, and the absentee and provisional ballots added to the tally later narrowed the margin between Blair and Elrich to 79 votes, with Elrich declared the winner.
The recount, requested by Blair, covered roughly 15,200 ballots cast by provisional and absentee voters, as well as early voters at the Potomac Community Recreation Center and Election Day voters at a Clarksburg polling place.
Blair last week said he didn’t expect the standings to change as a result of the review, but he had enough doubts about the final tally to move forward.
Specifically, he cited concerns about the impact of the Motor Vehicle Administration programming error that affected about 83,000 voters statewide.
“Clearly there was the intent of many voters to vote for me, and they weren’t able to, either by their own error or by the error of the MVA or some other reason,” he said last week.
Monday’s review didn’t cover the rejected provisional ballots that were the source of concern for Blair.
He could challenge the election outcome in Montgomery County Circuit Court after the totals are verified later his week, according to Jim Shalleck, president of the county’s Board of Elections.
Blair said he does not plan to pursue a legal challenge.
“Obviously, it was a super tight, super close election,” Blair said. “Now, it’s time for the Democratic Party to come together and start thinking about November.”
Blair said he will support Elrich as the Democratic nominee and would be reaching out to him shortly. While he said his political future is unclear, he said he does want to remain engaged. “There’s no doubt our message resonated with voters across the county,” he said.
During the six-way primary battle, Blair and Elrich stood in particularly sharp contrast with others in the field. Blair, a wealthy entrepreneur, pumped about $3 million of his own money into his campaign. Elrich opted against accepting large contributions from political action committees or businesses and instead participated in the county’s new public financing system. Blair’s campaign appealed to businesses and pro-growth constituents, while Elrich won support from progressives.
On Monday, staff representing local elections board from around the region—Howard, Frederick, Washington and Prince George’s counties—filled a warehouse in Gaithersburg, counting ballots from 9 a.m. to about 5 p.m.
Volunteers from both campaigns buzzed around during the process, crunching numbers and watching the counters at work.
The review narrowed the gap between Elrich and Blair by two votes to 77, according to the unofficial results.
It was the second primary ballot recount in Montgomery County, coming just days after the reexamination of ballots in the District 16 delegate contest between Sara Love and Samir Paul. Love ended up winning the seat. Before that, the county hadn’t seen a recount in 20 years, elections board spokeswoman Marjorie Roher said.
The county executive recount carried an estimated cost of about $23,466. Per state law, Blair will likely have to pay the bill, since he trailed Elrich by more than 0.1 percent of the total votes cast for the two men.
The winner in the Democratic primary will go up against Republican Robin Ficker. Council member Nancy Floreen has also launched an independent bid for the post and is working to gather the requisite number of signatures to put her name on the ballot.