Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and challenger David Blair Credit: Submitted photos

Editor’s note: This story was updated 4:20 p.m. July 31 to correct the total number of mail-in ballots returned.

Canvassers at the Montgomery County Board of Elections on Saturday continued to count mail-in ballots for a seventh day – a process expected to extend well into this coming week in the wake of the July 19 primary.

In the marquee race – the Democratic primary for county executive, pitting David Blair against Marc Elrich for the second time in four years – Blair, at the end of Saturday’s canvass, held a wafer-thin 21-vote lead, down from a 134-vote edge at the conclusion of the tally a day earlier.

Blair is ahead of Elrich by 47,980 to 47,959 in the total vote count so far, for a margin of 39.27% to 39.25% — a difference of just 0.02%. Under Maryland election law, if a candidate finishes within 0.25% of another candidate once final vote totals are certified by a local elections board, that candidate can request a state-financed recount at no personal expense.

Blair, a multimillionaire businessman from Potomac who has largely self-financed both of his campaigns, lost to Elrich in the 2018 primary by 77 votes following a recount. It gave Elrich, a Takoma Park resident – who, in 12 years on the County Council, was seen as a political outlier often at odds with his colleagues — his first term in the county’s top elected position.

County Council Member at-large Hans Riemer, the other major contender in this year’s Democratic race for executive, conceded a day after the polls closed on July 19. The latest count put him at 19.75%, with 24,128 votes.

As was the case four years ago, the 2022 primary has yielded not only a close county executive primary, but one with a lengthy ballot count – the result of current law that barred the tallying of mail-in ballots until Thursday, July 21, two days after the primary election itself. Legislation to allow mail-in votes to be counted in advance of the primary was vetoed earlier this year by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

As of Saturday night, the Maryland State Board of Elections website showed just over 62,500 Democratic mail-in ballots had been received in Montgomery County, out of a total of nearly 73,700 mail ballots returned – meaning that about 85 percent of the mail-in ballots are Democratic with a potential bearing on the outcome of the county executive primary.

The latest tabulation indicates that nearly 48,300 of the Democratic mail ballots have been counted, leaving slightly more than 14,200 of these Democratic ballots yet to tally, according to State Board of Elections figures.

Under state law, the mail ballot review encompasses any ballots that arrived by 10 a.m. Friday at the county Board of Elections but were postmarked by 8 p.m. on July 19 — when the polls closed on Primary Day.

In addition to the mail-in votes, there are about 8,000 provisional ballots still to be counted. A Sunday session of the county Board of Elections has been scheduled to review provisional ballots whose rejection has been recommended by poll workers or elections board staff, according to board spokesman Gilberto Zelaya. But actual counting of mail-in and provisional votes will not resume until Monday, Zelaya said.

There is no way to know how many of the provisional votes are Democratic—and therefore a potential factor in the county executive primary—until they are counted. However, given the county’s predominantly Democratic makeup, it appears likely that a large majority of the 8,000 provisional votes were cast by Democratic voters.

Alysoun McLaughlin, the county’s acting election director, has said she expects most mail-in and provisional ballots will be canvassed and scanned by this coming week – the first week in August – with a goal of certifying the result by Aug. 12, a week from Friday.
Once the election results have been certified by the county Board of Elections, candidates have three days to request a recount.

With the Democrats enjoying a 4-1 voter registration edge in the county, the ultimate winner of the Blair-Elrich faceoff will be a prohibitive favorite to come out on top in the November general election against GOP candidate Reardon Sullivan, former chair of the county’s Republican Central Committee.

Blair emerged from Primary Day and early voting a week earlier ahead of Elrich by about 1,100 votes. But when counting of mail-in ballots began July 21, Elrich erased that lead and pulled ahead a day later.

Last weekend’s tabulations showed Blair chipping away at Elrich’s slim lead, and results released mid-day Monday put him just 141 votes behind Elrich. By Monday night’s release of the results, Blair had regained the lead by 134 votes. That lead grew by 11 votes after Wednesday’s tabulations, but decreased by 14 votes after Friday’s count, resulting in a 131-vote margin pending Saturday’s count – which cut it down to 21 votes.

In the races for Montgomery County Council races, only Districts 1, 3 and 6 have projected winners in the Democratic primary – although, in contrast to the razor-thin vote margins in the county executive race, the ultimate results of the council contests are increasingly coming into focus as the mail-in count draws closer to completion.

There were no primaries for the Republican nominations in the at-large or district council contests, so all GOP council candidates made it on to the fall ballot without opposition.

In District 1, Democratic incumbent Andrew Friedson, ran unopposed in the primary, and no Republican has filed to run in the general election.

In District 3, Democratic incumbent Sidney Katz is on track to win renomination to a third term. And former county Planning Board vice chair Natali Fani-Gonzalez appears to be an all-but-certain winner of the Democratic nomination in newly created District 6, where Fani-Gonzalez’s leading challenger, former Del. Marice Morales, has conceded.

Katz will be challenged by Republican George Hernandez in November, while Fani-Gonzalez will face GOP nominee Viet Doan.
Following are the remaining results for County Council Democratic primary races (the top vote-getter advances to the general election in November except for at-large, where there are four available nominations) and the county Board of Education races, which are nonpartisan (the top two from each round advance to the general election in November).

County Council at-large
Incumbents Gabe Albornoz, Evan Glass and Will Jawando and former Gaithersburg Council Member Laurie-Anne Sayles lead for the four spots to advance to the November general election. Glass had 76,107 votes (18.88%); Jawando, 69,118 (17.15%); Albornoz, 65,382 (16.22%); and Sayles, 53,017 (13.15%) as of the close of Saturday’s count.

Scott Goldberg is in fifth place with 45,789 (11.36%) and has acknowledged he is unlikely to close the gap between himself and Sayles. District 5 Council Member Tom Hucker – who was seeking to move into an at-large slot – is in sixth place in the eight-way primary, and has conceded; the latest count puts him at 43,245 (10.73%).

Three Republican candidates—Christopher Fiotes, Lenard Lieber and Dwight Patel—are on the November ballot for the at-large seats.

County Council District 2
Gaithersburg/Germantown Chamber of Commerce President Marilyn Balcombe leads with 5,808 votes (49.18%), while William Roberts is running second with 3,305 (27.98%) in the three-person Democratic primary. Dan Cuda is the Republican nominee.

County Council District 4
Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart is in front with 9,064 votes (42.61%) in the five-way primary; Amy Ginsburg is in second place with 7,054 (33.17%). Cheryl Riley is the Republican candidate in November.

County Council District 5
Kristin Mink, a former Montgomery County public schools teacher turned community organizer, is the frontrunner with 7,076 votes (42.09%), with Fatmata Barrie in second with 3,978 (23.66%) in the crowded, eight-person primary. Kate Woody is the Republican nominee.

County Council District 7
Dawn Luedtke, a former assistant state attorney general, leads with 4,794 (35.32%) in this newly created district. Jacqueline Manger is in second with 3,063 votes (23%) in a seven-way primary, and acknowledged last week that she’s unlikely to be able to make up the difference with Luedtke. Harold Maldonado is the Republican nominee.

Board of Education at-large
The incumbent, Karla Silvestre, leads with 65,161 votes (55.28%), with Mike Erickson in second with 20,813 (17.66%) and Michael Fryar in third with 18,099 (15.35%), as the two top finishers move on to a November runoff.

Board of Education District 1
Former county Board of Elections member Grace Rivera-Oven leads with 53,894 votes (45.81%). Esther Wells appears to have a solid hold on the second-place slot with 32,635 (27.74%), with Jay Guan in third at 17,142 (14.57%).

Board of Education District 3
Julie Yang, a Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) counselor, is in first with 73,447 votes (60.44%). She sought appointment to the seat following the death of long-time Board of Education member Patricia O’Neill in late 2021, but was passed over for Scott Joftus, the current incumbent, who is in second with 28,842 (23.73%).

Board of Education District 5
Incumbent Brenda Wolff has moved into a slight lead against retired MCPS elementary school teacher Valerie Coll. Wolff leads with 46,171 votes (39.41%) to 46,147 (39.39%) for Coll, a margin of 24 votes. It’s a shift from a day earlier, when Coll held a 12-vote edge.