This story was updated at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 9, 2022.
Katie Fry Hester (D) was elected Montgomery County’s newest state senator Tuesday, as she bested her Republican opponent, Del. Reid Novotny, in what was widely regarded as this year’s most competitive race statewide for a Maryland Senate seat.
Hester first won the District 9 Senate seat – centered in Howard County – in 2018 in an upset victory when the district also included a portion of Carroll County. This year, Carroll was removed from the district during the decennial redistricting process, and a sliver of northern Montgomery County in the Clarksburg/Damascus area was added in its place.
With all 43 Election Day precincts in District 9 reporting as of early Wednesday, Hester held a 54% to 46% edge over Novotny, for a lead of nearly 3,600 votes.
While Hester and Novotny were running nearly even in votes cast on Election Day, Hester held an approximately 1,700 margin from the eight days of early voting, and was ahead by nearly 2,000 votes in mail ballots cast.
Only 4,250 mail-in votes cast in the race have been counted so far — but at least 11,000 mail ballots requested in District 9 have been returned, according to State Board of Elections figures. With mail-in vote trends generally favoring Democrats around the state this year, Hester appears in a position to widen her margin when counting of mail ballots resumes this week.
“I am honored that the voters of District 9 have put their trust in me to represent them for the next four years,” Hester said in a text message to Bethesda Beat early Wednesday morning. “From Day One, my office has prioritized common sense solutions that work for all Marylanders…Tonight, we celebrate our hard work, but tomorrow, it’s back to the office to serve our community!”
The outcome appeared less clear early Wednesday in District 9A – also added to northern Montgomery County via this year’s redistricting – in which four candidates were competing for two available delegate seats.
Republican Del. Trent Kittleman – who resides in West Friendship in Howard County – had a lead of about 2,300 votes as she sought re-election to a third term.
But, in the contest for the second delegate seat – currently held by Novotny – two Democrats were running neck-and-neck: Howard County Board of Education member Chao Wu and businesswoman/farmer Natalie Ziegler, both of Clarksville, were separated by just 60 votes. The remaining Republican candidate, software engineer Jianning Jenny Zeng of Ellicott City, trailed by about 1,000 votes.
There appear to be at least 2,200 mail-in votes that have been returned, but are yet to be counted, which could have an impact on the race’s final order of finish.
If Kittleman ultimately wins another term in one of the two available seats, she would be the first Republican member of the Montgomery County state legislative delegation in 16 years – since the late Del. Jean Cryor, who represented Potomac area District 15, was defeated for re-election in 2006.
The contests in District 9 and District 9A turned out to be the only competitive state legislative races on the ballot in Montgomery County Tuesday. In eight other legislative districts – all located entirely within Montgomery’s boundaries – a total of eight Democratic nominees for Maryland Senate and 24 Democratic candidates for House of Delegates were handily elected. All but two of these 32 nominees were incumbents seeking another four-year term in Annapolis.
After Hester rode the so-called “blue wave” of 2018 to oust then-Republican Sen. Gail Bates by a 51% to 49% margin, the Democratic-controlled Maryland General Assembly utilized this year’s redistricting process in an effort to help Hester retain the seat.
While District 9 remained primarily in Howard County – Hester, of Ellicott City, and Novotny, of Glenelg, are both Howard residents — redistricting removed a portion of Republican-dominated Carroll County where Bates led Hester four years ago by 2,800 votes.
The district was redrawn to include a portion of northern Montgomery County where Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 5,000 to 3,000; the number of eligible Montgomery voters in the district totals about 10,750 when independents are included.
After seeking to buttress Hester through the redistricting process, Maryland Senate Democrats directed significant funding to try to hold onto the seat. The Senate Democratic Caucus Committee made $186,000 worth of in-kind donations to the Hester campaign from the beginning of July through late October, according to reports filed with the State Board of Elections. The bulk of those funds went for digital advertising and mailings.
Additionally, Hester’s own campaign committee reported spending nearly $390,000 —an extraordinary amount for a part-time position that pays slightly more than $50,300 annually – during the same period. About half of this expenditure went to a combination of TV and online ads.
Compared to Hester, Novotny — appointed to a vacancy in the House of Delegates last year from District 9A after unsuccessfully mounting a primary challenge to Bates in 2018 —– reported a relatively modest $50,700 in campaign spending during the four-month period beginning in July.
In his campaign mailings, Novotny sought to label Hester as “far left,” while charging that during her four years in office, she “continued to vote with the left 98% of the time and does not represent this area.”
Hester – widely regarded as more moderate than many of her Democratic colleagues in Annapolis – was dismissive when asked about Novotny’s charges. “I stopped reading [Novotny’s] emails because most of them are full of lies and misrepresentations of the truth,” she recently told Maryland Matters.
A mailer sent out by Hester charged Novotny with refusing to stand up to threats to the democratic process or to support abortion rights. At the same time, she boasted of reaching across the political aisle during her tenure, saying, “I’ve passed over 25 pieces of legislation with bipartisan support, really focused on schools and small business and community public safety.”
The addition of a portion of District 9 will translate into an increase of legislative representation for Montgomery County in Annapolis: For the past decade, Montgomery has had eight legislative districts (Districts 14 through 20 and District 39) located entirely within the county. Each of the eight is represented by one state senator and three members of the House of Delegates.
In the 2023 General Assembly session, the Montgomery state legislative delegation will expand from 32 members – eight state senators and 24 delegates – to nine state senators and 26 delegates with the addition of the sections of District 9 and District 9A.
In contrast to the highly competitive contest in District 9, Montgomery’s eight other Senate districts remained easily in Democratic hands Tuesday.
Sens. Susan Lee (D-Dist. 16), Cheryl Kagan (D-Dist. 17) and Will Smith (D-Dist. 20) were ensured of re-election prior to Election Day due to the absence of Republican opponents. Sen. Nancy King (D-Dist. 39) also had no Republican challenger, but faced a Green Party candidate, Moshe Landman, whom she defeated by 84% to14%.
In the four other Senate districts, all involving Democratic incumbents seeking re-election, the results — pending completion of the mail ballot counts — were as follows:
**District 14: Craig Zucker, Democrat, 69%; Alex Bieber, Republican, 31%
**District 15: Brian Feldman, (D,) 69%; David Wilson, (R,) 31%.
**District 18; Jeff Waldstreicher, (D), 80%; Missy Carr, (R), 20%.
**District 19: Ben Kramer, (D), 72%; Anita Cox, (R), 26%; David Jeang, (Green), 2%
The contests for House of Delegates in those eight districts involved 24 Democratic nominees, including 22 incumbents. Democratic delegate candidates running in Districts 16 (Bethesda/Chevy Chase), 20 (Silver Spring/Takoma Park) and 39 (Germantown/Montgomery Village) were guaranteed re-election due to a lack of opposition.
Of the remaining five districts, Democrats won all of the total of 15 available delegate slots. Republicans filed a full slate of three delegate candidates in only one of them — District 15, covering the western portion of the county from Potomac to the Frederick County border.
The results in the contested districts were as follows:
**District 14: Anne Kaiser, (D), 26%; Eric Luedtke, (D), 25%; Pamela Queen, (D), 25%; Kathy Gugulis, (R), 12%; Kate Walshe, (R), 12%
**District 15: Linda Foley, (D), 23%; Lily Qi, D, 23%; David Fraser-Hidalgo, (D), 22%; Stacey Sauter, (R), 11%; Jodi Colella Noah, (R), 10%; Matt Wade, (R), 10%
**District 17: Julie Palakovich Carr, (D), 28%; Kumar Barve, (D), 27%; Joe Vogel, (D), 27%; Helene Meister, (R), 9%; Donald Patti, (R), 9%
**District 18: Emily Shetty, (D), 30%; Aaron Kaufman, (D), 29%; Jared Solomon, (D), 29%; George Cecala, (R), 8.5%; Jon Foreman, (Green), 3.5% **District 19: Charlotte Crutchfield, (D), 29%; Bonnie Cullison, (D), 29%; Vaughn Stewart, (D), 28%; Frank Nice, (R), 13%