Credit: Photos by Dan Schere

This story was updated at 3:30 a.m. Nov. 3, 2021, with unofficial results and at 11:30 a.m. with additional comments.

Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman is on his way to defeating challenger Stephen Escobar to win another term, according to unofficial results.

According to the city, Ashman had 3,650 votes and Escobar had 833 at the end of Election Day on Tuesday. The totals include early voting, Election Day voting and mail-in ballots that were received by Tuesday.

Lisa Henderson and Jim McNulty were headed toward capturing two open seats on the City Council in a five-way race, also according to unofficial results.

Combined early voting, Election Day and mail-in ballot totals for the council candidates were:
• Lisa Henderson: 2,632
• Jim McNulty: 2,159
• Yamil Hernandez: 1,777
• Dave Belgard: 1,274
• Philip Cook: 723

Elections workers counted ballots well into the night. The city released unofficial results at about 3 a.m. Wednesday.

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From left, state Sen. Cheryl Kagan, Gaithersburg City Council candidate Jim McNulty and outgoing Council Member Mike Sesma were among those gathered at South House Garden on Election Night.

As of Tuesday morning, 4,557 ballots were cast, including 2,946 by mail and 1,611 at the polls, according to the city. With 36,592 registered voters, that put preliminary turnout at 12.45%.

The city said turnout for a 2019 election for three uncontested City Council seats was 6.54%.

Mail-in ballots had to be postmarked by Tuesday and must be received by Thursday.

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The city’s Board of Supervisors of Elections is scheduled to meet on Nov. 9 to review mail-in ballots and provisional ballots, which voters use when there is a question about their registration that is resolved later.

Official results will be announced the next day, according to the city.

Newly elected officials will be sworn in Nov. 15

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Ashman, 50, has served in elected office in Gaithersburg since 2007.

In 2014, the Gaithersburg City Council appointed him to finish the remaining term of Mayor Sidney Katz, who was elected to the Montgomery County Council that year. Ashman then was elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2017.

Escobar, a 29-year-old sergeant in the Maryland Army National Guard, was running for political office for the first time.

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Henderson and McNulty would succeed Council Members Mike Sesma and Laurie-Anne Sayles.

Sesma announced earlier this year that he would be stepping down from the council after 16 years. Sayles has chosen to run for an at-large seat on the County Council in next year’s Democratic primary.

Candidates, elected officials and others began gathering at South House Garden on East Diamond Avenue shortly after polls closed at 8 p.m. for a watch party. For the next four hours, they drank, socialized and watched national election results from Virginia and other states.

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Ashman told Bethesda Beat in an interview Wednesday morning that he’s grateful to Gaithersburg residents for their support and looks forward to working with the newly elected City Council to “help Gaithersburg reach its potential.”

“I really want to commend that everyone ran their campaigns in this election season. All the council candidates and my challenger as mayor conducted themselves with civility and showed their best selves, and they were a credit to a city of Gaithersburg,” he said.

Ashman said his biggest priorities for the next four years are “keeping the ball moving on revitalization on the east side of Gaithersburg” and doing everything possible to “foster some momentum” in trying to redevelop Lakeforest Mall.

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With nearly 3,000 mail-in votes having been recorded as of Wednesday morning, Ashman said he is pleased with the turnout. He said that at some point, the mayor and vouncil will hold a work session with the Board of Supervisors of Elections to discuss what went right and what needs to be improved about city elections.

Escobar told Bethesda Beat on Wednesday morning that he’s pleased to have run an honorable campaign.

“It was a huge learning experience for me and this is definitely a building block I’m going to be using for future political campaigns,” he said.

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Escobar said he plans to stay involved in the city and join several committees to learn about the city’s inner workings.

Ashman said he and Escobar have text messaged with each other since the unofficial results came out.

“We’ve become friends during the campaign, and I think he’s got a bright future, and he’s got a lot to contribute to the city of Gaithersburg,” Ashman said.

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Henderson, an information technology program director for Montgomery County, told Bethesda Beat on Tuesday night that she did most of her campaigning in person by knocking on doors.

“I think that the direct interaction with the residents made a big difference, and I was excited to learn from the residents and excited to voice my platform,” she said.

Henderson said one of her main priorities for the city ensuring attainable housing.

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“The population’s gonna grow over the next 20 years. I want to make sure that we’ve got structured, good, well-maintained housing that’s attainable for whoever chooses to come to live in the city of Gaithersburg,” she said.

Managing Editor Andrew Schotz contributed to this story.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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