Elrich, Blair locked in tight race for Montgomery Co. exec; voters pick at-large council seats

WASHINGTON — In the closely watched Montgomery County executive race, veteran county council member Marc Elrich and political novice and businessman David Blair pulled ahead of the six-candidate pack but remained locked in a virtual tie Wednesday morning.

As of 7:15 a.m. Wednesday, with more than 98 percent of precincts in the county reporting vote totals, Elrich led Blair by fewer than 500 votes — 29.3 percent to 28.9 percent — but the race remained too close to call.

The vote totals do not include any absentee or provisional ballots. Due to a technical error, up to 80,000 voters statewide may have had to cast provisional ballots Tuesday — ballots which won’t be counted until next week.

The two leading candidates in the county executive race represented competing visions for the future of Maryland’s most populous county in a campaign that turned on issues, such as development, easing transportation bottlenecks and strengthening the county’s economy and tax base.

Elrich is a popular three-term at-large county council member who previously served for 19 years on the Takoma Park City Council. Elrich is seen as a progressive stalwart with a deep — some say unfounded — skepticism of development projects in the county.

Blair, the founder of a health care company with no prior political experience, received two endorsements from The Washington Post, one of which called him “a dynamic political newcomer with business acumen, energy and passion for innovation.” After a report issued this spring warned of “extraordinarily soft” job growth in the county, The Post editorial board said Blair stood “the best chance of injecting a dose of vitality into a county that badly needs it.”

Blair pumped some $2 million dollars into his campaign for county exec. Elrich was one of three candidates in the executive race to choose the county’s new public-financing option.

Blair and Elrich received nearly double the number of votes as the other candidates in the race, according to the preliminary vote totals.

Rose Krasnow, the former mayor of Rockville ended the night with 15.2 percent of the vote.

County council members Roger Berliner and George Leventhal came in with 12.9 percent and 10.3 percent, respectively.

Maryland state Del. Bill Frick had about 3.6 percent of the vote.

Robin Ficker, a Bethesda attorney, ran unopposed for the Republican nomination for county executive. There hasn’t been a Republican county executive since the 1970s.

At-large Montgomery County Council

Meanwhile, the contest for four at-large seats on the county council featured an extremely crowded ballot on the Democratic side. A total of 33 Democratic candidates vied for nods in the primary.

Incumbent Council member Hans Riemer led with 12.2 percent of the vote.

The remaining top four vote-getters as of 12 a.m. Wednesday were: Will Jawando a former Obama administration official, with 9.8 percent; Evan Glass, a former CNN producer, with 7.9 percent; and Gabe Albornoz, the former director of the county’s recreation department, with 7.3 percent.

In the county’s District 1, with 57 of the district’s 58 precincts reporting vote totals, Andrew Friedson, a former adviser to Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, led with 28.3 percent of the vote. His closest competitor, Maryland state Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, had 21.5 percent of the vote.

That council seat is currently held by Berliner, but he announced he would step down from the seat to run for county executive.

Most of the remaining incumbent council members held commanding leads over their Democratic challengers in their races.

In District 2, incumbent Craig Rice led challenger Tiquia Bennet 73 percent to 26 percent.

In District 3, Sidney Katz held a 5-point lead over challenger Ben Shnider — 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent.

In District 4, Nancy Navarro led Jay Graney 90 percent to 9 percent.

In District 5, Tom Hucker led two challengers — Kevin Harris and Kenge Malikidogo-Fludd — with 67 percent of the vote.

On the Republican side, Richard Banach was running unopposed in the GOP primary for the District 1 council seat.

In District 2, Republican Ed Amatetti handily led two other Republican candidates — Tom Ferleman and Kyle Sefcik — with more than 52 percent of the vote.

In addition, four Republicans ran for at-large seats in the GOP primary, all securing spots on the general election ballot: They are Robert Dyer; Chris P. Fiotes, Jr.; Penny Musser; and Shelly Skolnick.

In heavily Democratic Montgomery County, the victors of the Democratic primary are widely expected to proceed to victory in the fall’s general election.

Montgomery County has not elected a Republican county council member since the early 2000s.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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