The polls are now closed and votes are being counted in Maryland’s most populous county, where voters are making their picks for a slew of Montgomery County Council seats and deciding whether County Executive Marc Elrich will get a second term.
This is the first election with two newly-added County Council seats on the ballot — bringing the total number of seats to 11. In addition, there are four at-large council seats on the ballot and three open district seats — in Districts 2, 4 and 5 — due to term-limited council members stepping down.
In heavily Democratic Montgomery County, the outcome of the primary is seen as all but assuring victory in November’s general election.
County executive: Elrich and Blair locked in tight race
The race for county executive has largely shaped up to be a rematch of the 2018 campaign, with Elrich once again facing former health care CEO and businessman David Blair.
Early voting totals and some primary — which account for just a fragment of total votes expected — appeared to show a close race again, with Elrich and Blair essentially running neck and neck.
In early vote totals as of around 7 a.m. Wednesday — with 246 of 258 precincts reporting primary day votes — Blair still held a thin lead over Elrich, 39.6% to 38%. Just over 1,000 votes separated the two candidates.
Longtime County Council member Hans Riemer followed with about 20.4% of the vote.
It could be several days before outcomes are known — especially in close races. As of Monday, there were at least 25,000 mail-in ballots from Democratic Montgomery County voters that had been returned to the Board of Elections. Those won’t be counted until Thursday, and the total number of mail-in ballots is expected to grow, as voters had until Tuesday to have them postmarked and until 8 p.m. to drop them in a ballot drop box.
Mail-in ballots will start being counted Thursday at 10 a.m.
In the 2018 primary, Elrich bested Blair by just 77 votes, and it took two weeks after the primary and a recount before the vote was finalized.
A poll heading into primary day from the group Data for Progress appeared to show the race between Elrich and Blair tightening.
Elrich, a former longtime member of the County Council, has won praise for the county’s handling of the pandemic, which saw Montgomery County routinely cited as one of the most vaccinated large counties in the U.S.
Elrich has also promoted an ambitious climate action plan that seeks to cut greenhouse emissions in the county 80% by 2027 and eliminate them entirely by 2035.
However, Elrich has faced criticism over his skepticism of development projects, which his critics say amount to opposition to affordable housing efforts. Both Blair and Riemer have hit Elrich on the issue.
For his part, Blair has said he will bring “vision, leadership and financial discipline” to the county and improve the county’s business climate.
Blair has been endorsed by The Washington Post, which said in an editorial that he is up to the task of bringing more jobs to the county.
Elrich got a late campaign boost when popular Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, who is playing a lead role in the House Jan. 6 investigation, endorsed Elrich for a second term.
New council seats
Voters are selecting their picks for two new council seats, thanks to a 2020 ballot initiative that expanded the council.
The new council district seats are District 6 — which includes Wheaton, Aspen Hill and Glenmont — and District 7, which is in the “upcounty” portion of the county and includes Sandy Spring, Olney, Montgomery Village and Damascus.
Early voting and a sizable portion of primary day votes were reported as of midnight, but the totals below do not include any mail-in ballots.
In District 6, eight candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination.
With all early voting and most election day precincts reporting, Natali Fani Gonzalez, former vice chair of the Montgomery County Park and Planning Commission, led with nearly 54% of the vote.
Her closest competitor, Maricé Morales, an attorney and former state delegate, received about 17% of the vote.
The other candidates are
- Omar Lazo, real estate agent and owner of Los Chorros Restaurant in Wheaton.
- Brit Siman-Tov.
- Steve Solomon, radio host.
- Christa Tichy, small business owner and master electrician.
- Mark Trullinger.
- Vicki S. Vergagni, president of the Glen Waye Gardens Condominium.
For the Republican nomination, Viet H. Doan is running unopposed.
In District 7, seven candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination. Early voting totals indicated a closer race.
Dawn Luedtke, assistant state attorney general, led in early voting with about 31.5% of the vote. That’s with 43 of 44 election day precincts reporting.
The other candidates in the race are:
- Andrew A. Einsmann, real estate agent.
- Paul Geller, community advocate and former president of the Montgomery County Council of PTAs.
- Sharif A. Hidayat, former Montgomery County police officer.
- Jacqueline Manger, an official at the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business.
- Paul K. Schwartz, legislative analyst for National Active and Retired Federal Employees in Maryland.
- Ben Wikner, pastor and nonprofit director.
Republican Harold C. Maldonaldo is running unopposed for the GOP nomination.
In addition to the two newly added seats, all four at-large seats are up for grabs. The top four vote-getters advance to the general election.
Riemer, who’s making a bid for county executive, is term-limited.
In early returns, all the incumbents — Glass, Jawando and Albornoz — were leading with 246 of 258 election day precincts reporting. Glass, overall, led the pack with around 18.3% of the vote. That was followed by Jawando with just over 17.3% of the vote and Albornoz with 15.5%.
The fourth-highest vote-getter was former Gaithersburg City Council member Laurie-Anne Sayles, with about 13.4% of the vote, which would guarantee her a spot on the ticket in the general election.
Scott Goldberg, former chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Party, followed with 11%.
Tom Hucker, currently the District 5 council member, who gave up that seat to launch a short-lived campaign for county executive before settling on the at-large council seat, trailed with 10.5% of the vote. If those totals held, he would be shut out of the general election.
Also in the running for the Democratic nomination for one of the four at-large seats:
- Brandy H.M. Brooks, community organizer and racial equity consultant.
- Dana E. Gassaway.
Three Republican candidates are running for the GOP nomination for at-large seats.
Because there are only three candidates running and four at-large seats, the Republican candidates are guaranteed slots on the general election ballot.
In District 2, which is in the western half of the county and includes Germantown, Clarksburg and Dickerson, current Council member Craig Rice is term-limited.
There are three Democratic candidates running to replace him. In early returns, Marilyn Balcombe, the CEO of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, led with nearly 47% of the vote in a three-person race.
The other candidates are:
- Lorna Phillips Forde is a small-business owner and Germantown resident.
- William Roberts is an attorney and the former chief counsel for Rep. Jamie Raskin.
Republican Dan Cuda, an Air Force veteran and former Pentagon management analyst, is running unopposed for the GOP nomination.
In District 4, a bow-tie-shaped sliver of the county that includes Silver Spring and North Bethesda, there are five Democrats running to replace Nancy Navarro, who is term-limited.
With 32 of 33 election day precincts reporting, Kate Stewart, mayor of Takoma Park, led with nearly 45% of the vote.
Amy Ginsburg, executive director of Friends of White Flint, followed with about 31% of the vote.
The other candidates are
- Al Carr, member of the Maryland House of Delegates representing Kensington since 2007.
- Troy Murtha, law student and EMT with the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department.
- John F. Zittrauer, Silver Spring resident and bartender at Denizens Brewing.
Republican Cheryl Riley, a public relations professional, is running unopposed for the GOP nomination.
The race for the District 5 seat — which is located along the eastern edge of the county and includes parts of Leisure World, White Oak and Burtonsville — has drawn eight Democratic candidates.
In early returns, Kristin Mink, senior legislative organizer for the Center for Popular Democracy and former MCPS teacher, led with 40% of the vote compared to about 26.5% for Fatmata Barrie, immigration and special education attorney.
The other Democratic candidates are:
- Brian Anleu, chief of staff of the Montgomery County Planning Board.
- Christopher Bolton, former chair of the East County Citizens Advisory Board.
- Daniel Amara Koroma, civic activist.
- Cary Lamari, civic activist and former president of the Montgomery County Civic Federation.
- William “Chip” Montier, former PTA president.
- Jeremiah Pope, founder of a professional fundraising and consulting company and chief of staff to Maryland Del. Charlotte Crutchfield.
Republican Kate Woody is running unopposed for the GOP nomination.
In the 3rd District — which is in the center of the county and includes Gaithersburg and Rockville — incumbent council member Sidney Katz, had opened a large lead against two challengers.
Katz, who is running for his third term, had just over 58% of the vote.
His two Democratic challengers are:
George Hernandez is running unopposed for the Republican nomination.
In the 1st District, which includes Potomac and Bethesda, first-term incumbent council member Andrew Friedson is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination, and there is no Republican primary.