Montgomery County voters await the results of the Executive and Council races

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Voters turned out to cast their ballots in Montgomery County’s hard-fought primary on Tuesday, spurred by concerns about development, affordable housing and education issues in Maryland’s most populous county.

There was still no predicted winner in the marquee of the Democratic Montgomery County executive primary or Democratic county council primary as of late Tuesday, with counties still counting Election Day results and thousands of mail-in votes later in still to be counted this week.

Shortly after midnight incumbent Marc Elrich and Potomac businessman David Blair were embroiled in a fight for the district board – recalls their matchup in the 2018 primary, which Elrich won by 77 votes, despite heavy spending from Blair, who, like this year, had poured millions of his own money into the campaign.

“I think I’ve seen this piece before,” Elrich said in an interview. “I’d rather be in a better place. I don’t want to be in a worse place. It’s frustrating but I’m feeling pretty good.”

In 2018 it took almost two weeks and a recount to declare Elrich the winner. This year, with thousands of mail-in votes that, under Maryland law, cannot be counted until Thursday, there could be another long wait for race results. This year, however, Blair hopes the outcome will be different.

“It’s clearly going to be another close race and it’s similar to how the race started four years ago,” Blair said. “I think the difference this time is that we had a chance to get in front of more voters.”

Elrich also faced temporary County Council member Hans Riemer (D-At Large) and robotics company CEO Peter James in the primary.

Results of the 2022 Maryland primary

The winner of the Republican primary, either Shelly Skolnick or Reardon Sullivan, will also be on the ballot in November, but the Democratic primary is tantamount to winning the general election in the Deep Blue District, which has not elected a Republican district executive since the 1970s.

Affordable housing, land use and development became key issues in the race for residents, along with education, public safety and transportation, as they prepared to choose who will run the affluent DC suburb.

Over the past year, the county redrawn its council district lines and added two new council seats in hopes of better representing the county’s changing demographics, which had become more racially diverse over the past four decades. According to the new council map approved last year, District 5 has a black plurality and District 6 has a Hispanic plurality. The influx of new residents has also led to increased demand for housing, leading to intense discussions over zoning and dividing the county over how best to go forward with development.

Elrich won the county’s highest elected position in 2018, partly due to the popularity of his caution against rapid, widespread development rather than supporting slow growth to offset school overcrowding and traffic congestion.

Sergio Kapfer, 72, at Bethesda Elementary School Tuesday saw Elrich’s development approach as the right one for the county.

“I’m not pro-development,” he said.

“Definitely not pro-development,” added his wife Daphna Krim, 70.

The couple have lived in Bethesda since the 1980s, before high-rise apartment and office buildings took over some parts of the neighborhood.

“It used to be a really quiet, nice neighborhood,” Krim said. “Now it’s just really built up. Too many people. Too much traffic.”

But for those wanting to see faster growth, Elrich has been a divisive figure in local politics – attracting critics who say he is holding back the county’s development.

The polls in Maryland’s hard-fought gubernatorial primary have closed

Diane Taitt, 56, voted for him in 2018 but said she now wants someone who brings more density and supports businesses in Silver Spring, where she lives.

“I don’t think he found the right formula for stimulating business in downtown Silver Spring,” Taitt said of Elrich. “It’s time to allow more density. We’re right outside of town.” She cast her vote for Riemer on Tuesday.

Others turned to Blair for a fresh face in politics. Antitrust attorney Danny Cohen, 64, and his wife waded through eight leaflet-wielding activists and countless lawn signs on their way to vote for Blair at the Carver Educational Service Center in Rockville.

“I really want Marc Elrich out,” said Cohen. “I want to get fresh blood, someone who can change things.”

Voters also cast ballots for four general councilors and seven council district seats. Among the Democrats vying for the at-large nominations were incumbents Gabe Albornoz, who serves as council president, Will Jawando and Evan Glass, and District 5 Officer Tom Hucker. Hucker ran for the district executive for several months, but withdrew his bid in April.

On Thursday, Amy Linde pulled up outside the Wheaton Recreation Center and hopped out, waving her mail-in ballot in the air. She came to cast her ballot for Elrich and District 6 Council candidate Omar Lazo.

“Elrich, he’s always scolded, but I still think he’s the best candidate overall,” said Linde, 39. “And Omar Lazo is great. My neighbor and a good friend of mine worked on Omar’s campaign. You know, we just talked a lot about the same values.”

Councilor Andrew Friedson (D-District 1), whose district includes Bethesda, Potomac, Chevy Chase and most of Travilah, and who ran unopposed in the elementary school, made his first stop at Bethesda Elementary School on an election-day tour that led him to 25 polling stations across the county.

“I feel great,” Friedson said with a campaign sticker on his short-sleeve polo. “It’s always fun to see democracy in action.”

What you need to know about late election results in Maryland

In the weeks leading up to Election Day, competition in the races for district boards and councils became increasingly heated. At least two super PACs emerged to influence the race – one focused on affordable housing and aimed at driving away Elrich votes, and another was financially backed by real estate and development groups that supported Blair along with a list of council candidates, including Albornoz, supported , Glas and Hucker.

The attacks – and the PACs – have drawn criticism from leaders and voters, who said the money’s influence added unnecessary confusion and intensity to local races.

Mark Drury, a 66-year-old Wheaton resident who voted for Elrich in the early voting, said there wasn’t a single issue that prompted him to cast his ballot. In general, he thought Elrich was successful in his first term – and the attacking publicity of his opponents and the PACs put him off the competition.

“There’s some negativity in this race, which is annoying,” said Drury. “These are all good people. They have different opinions, want to do different things. I don’t agree with everyone.”

David Stevens, 75, shared a similar sentiment about the constant ads as he cast his absentee ballot for Elrich at the Silver Spring Civic Building on Tuesday.

“I didn’t like the fact that there were these ads that would just attack Elrich,” Stevens said. “These attacks were pointless.”

According to the most recent campaign finance filing reports, Blair has loaned his campaign a total of $4.8 million, totaling $1.85 million since the last filing in mid-June. He previously poured $5.4 million into his 2018 campaign. Riemer and Elrich both raised over $1 million through the county’s public funding program, which allows them to receive matching funds for donations under $250 from county residents.

Despite the heat and the expense of the race, turnout in this year’s primary, which also includes statewide positions such as governor and attorney general, still got off to a slow start. Just over 24,700 — or 3.7 percent of Montgomery County’s eligible voters — cast a ballot during the eight-day early voting period that ended Thursday night.

As of Monday, more than 29,000 county voters had returned absentee ballots, according to the state Elections Committee, and more than 115,000 had requested ballots.

Eva Herscowitz and Sammy Sussman contributed to this report.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2022/07/19/montgomery-county-primary-election/ Montgomery County voters await the results of the Executive and Council races

Dustin Huang

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