Marc Elrich, a force in Montgomery County politics for 35 years, appears to have narrowly won the Democratic nomination for county executive. His opponent, David Blair, is asking for a recount.
Montgomery County's top elected official, Marc Elrich, is declaring victory in the Democratic primary for county executive after besting two-time rival David Blair by just 42 votes, according to unofficial tallies.
The contest is a repeat of 2018, in which an initial count put Elrich ahead of Blair by 79 votes. Blair is now calling for a recount, as he did four years ago.
Elrich released a statement Saturday night announcing his win. "I want to thank the voters. I love this county and care about our residents so very deeply," he said.
Maryland's Board of Elections posted the final, uncertified numbers Sunday after nearly three weeks of laborious counting. Canvassing was beset by extra steps and delays due to an unusually high number of mail-in and provisional ballots — thousands of which required extra verification — and a veto by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan that forced officials to begin counting mail-in ballots two days after Election Day.
Blair, a wealthy businessman who has never held elected office, said in a statement Sunday that a recount could yield a different outcome in the extremely close race.
"After several weeks of counting and virtually all votes recorded, the Associated Press has declared this race too close to call. Given the extremely close margin, we will be requesting a full recount and are hopeful that the outcome will be in our favor," Blair said.
Blair is legally permitted to petition for a recount within three days of the vote's certification, scheduled for Aug. 12. The recount in 2018 confirmed Elrich's win, though it narrowed his lead by two votes.
Republican Reardon Sullivan won the 2022 GOP nomination for county executive against rival Shelly Skolnick, but he's not expected to win the general election this fall, with registered Republicans making up just 15% of the county's eligible active voters.
The closely watched Democratic primary took on an adversarial tone just ahead of Election Day, as Elrich's critics blasted him with TV ads condemning his continuing opposition to new housing development amid a regional housing shortage that has sent home prices soaring. Elrich responded acidly to the ads, comparing his critics to the conservative Koch Brothers and accusing his well-funded opposition of "dirty" politicking.
A force in Montgomery County for 35 years, Elrich launched his political career when he won a seat on the Takoma Park city council in 1987. He went on to serve three terms as an at-large member of the county council, often casting the lone "no" vote against various development plans while championing left-wing priorities such as increasing the minimum wage. As executive, he's drawn praise for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, his resistance to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan's toll-lane plan for I-270, and his work on a Climate Action Plan.
But Elrich's critics point out that his argumentative, deliberative approach to governing made him a better fit for the legislature than the executive branch, and he has few allies on the current council.
Elrich tapped the county's public financing system to fund his campaign, in stark contrast to Blair, who self-funded his run to the tune of $5 million, with another $420,000 in outside contributions. Blair also got a boost from the developer-backed Super PAC Progressives for Progress, which raised close to $600,000 in support of the former health care CEO and other candidates that favor business expansion and housing growth. (Several left-leaning Democratic candidates in the county called the Super PAC's "progressive" moniker misleading.) Another entity, the Affordable Maryland PAC, gathered $985,000 to boost candidates running against Elrich. Most of that money came from billionaire Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz.
The Takoma Park progressive appears to have won anyway, pending the results of a recount. His support among labor unions, educators, and homeowners who oppose development has remained strong, and he won endorsements from several progressive organizations. Three days before the primary election, Elrich fetched a valuable endorsement from Democratic U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, who praised Elrich's ideological consistency.
"I've known Marc for most of my life. He's always the same Marc," Raskin said.
This story is from DCist.com, the local news site of WAMU.