The voters of Baltimore City have spoken. But it doesn’t appear they spoke loudly enough, because at the end of the preliminary counting in the Sept. 14 primary, in the watched and highly contested State’s Attorney’s race between Patricia Jessamy and Gregg Bernstein, it was still too close to call.
As the evening progressed and there was little news about counts and precincts reporting, Marilyn Harris-Davis, campaign advisor for Jessamy, expressed surprise at how slowly election results for the entire city were coming in. “We never had this kind of pull back on election results before,” she said. “They are not telling us anything.”
With 97 percent of the precincts reporting, around 9:45 a.m. Sept. 15, there were only 1,421 votes between State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy and Gregg Bernstein, with Bernstein in the lead. According to information from the Baltimore City Board of Elections, the official count of the absentee ballots will begin on Sept. 16 and the count of the provisional ballots – those cast by people eligible to vote but have an issue on Election Day like being at the incorrect polling location or not have a valid ID – begins Sept. 22. It may be another week before this race is finally decided. “The results are not final,” said Patricia Jessamy on the morning after the election. “We’ll just wait and see.”
Several of the big races were never in question, including the Democratic nominations for governor, comptroller and senator. Gov. Martin O’Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown carried the day, along with Comptroller Peter Franchot and Sen. Barbara Mikulski.
Also, some important incumbents secured the Democratic Party nominations for the November general elections including U.S. Reps. Elijah Cummings, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes and Donna Edwards.
In Baltimore City districts most incumbents were successful in keeping the Democratic nominations for their seats. State Sens. Catherine Pugh, D-40th; Lisa Gladden, D-41st and Nathaniel McFadden, D-45th, running unopposed in the primary and with no Republican challengers in November, retain their seats. With 70 percent of the vote, Sen. Joan Carter Conway, D-43rd, defeated Democratic challenger Hector Torres and will retain her seat as well. Sen. Verna Jones, D-44th, retains the Democratic nomination and will face Republican Bernard Reiter in November. In District 46, with no Republican challenger, longtime Sen. George Della was unseated by Bill Ferguson.
For the House of Delegates, Frank Conaway Jr. , Barbara Robinson and Shawn Tarrant in the 40th District , and Curt Anderson, Maggie McIntosh and Mary Washington in the 43rd District all retain their seats, facing no Republican challenge in November. Incumbents in the 41st District – Jill Carter, Nathaniel Oaks and Samuel “Sandy” Rosenberg – will face Republican Mark Ehrlichmann in the general election. In the 44th District Keiffer Mitchell Jr. was able to unseat Ruth Kirk and will join Melvin Stukes and Keith Haynes to face Republicans Brian Jones and Trae Lewis in November. In the 45th District Talmadge Branch, Cheryl Glenn and Hattie Harrison all survived the challenge for the nomination, but face Republicans Rick Saffery and Larry Wardlow Jr. in the General Election.
Despite what seemed to be a smaller than expected voter turnout, especially in Baltimore County, the mechanisms for gathering and reporting the results were inadequate to the task. The Maryland State Board of Elections website was not able to handle the traffic and the staff did not keep up with the 20 minute updates promised. Reportedly, Baltimore County results came in very slowly because of computer problems.
Kevin Kamenetz, more than 12 hours after the polls closed, gave a victory speech, shortly after Joseph Bartenfelder conceded the race. “This was a hard fought contest and each side was able to put forward their ideas and their goals before the voters,” he said.
In the District 10, all the incumbents – Sen. Delores Kelley and Delegates Nathan Pulliam, Emmett Burns and Adrienne Jones – all retain their seats, as they are not facing Republican challengers in November. But the Baltimore County Council 4th District race remained too close to call, mid-day Sept. 15, with incumbent Kenneth Oliver a mere 93 votes ahead of challenger Julian Jones and 3.1 percentage points ahead of challenger Leronia Josey. With three precincts left to report and absentee and provisional ballots to count, it may be days before this is resolved as well.