Unsuccessful District 12 candidates reflect on campaign

With the unofficial results in, seven candidates in the District 12 Democratic primary election won't advance to the general election. Baltimore County residents Brian Bailey, Rebecca Dongarra, Mike Gisriel, Rene McGuirk-Spence and Nick Stewart finished behind Clarence Lam, Terri Hill and Eric Ebersole and the top three now move on to face three Republicans in November.

Bailey, who received 1,532 votes, said being a Baltimore County resident put candidates at a disadvantage.

"Baltimore County [candidates were] at a slight disadvantage due to the population being lower than that of Howard County in the district," said the Lansdowne resident, who received 738 votes in his home county.

With 2012 redistricting, parts of Catonsville, Arbutus and Lansdowne in District 12A were blended with the District 12B of Howard County to form District 12.

There are 15,861 registered Democrats in the Baltimore County portion of the district and 23,388 registered Democrats in the Howard County portion.

More voted in Howard County, with 17,671 ballots cast in Howard and 10,722 cast in Baltimore County.

Lam (6,152 total votes) and Hill (5,926 votes) are both from Howard County, while Ebersole (4,329 votes) is a Catonsville resident who teaches in Howard County.

"I think that we all come to the table with a certain base of support. My base was in Baltimore County where my work as a civic leader and community activist afforded me a certain number of votes," Bailey said.

Despite facing charges for a criminal election law violation, after allegedly creating a website that targeted Dongarra, Bailey said after the primary that he would not have done anything differently.

"You always think that you can do something differently," Bailey said. "I don't want to play the 'what if' game."

Bailey said he is unsure if the charge affected the outcome of the election.

"I still feel strongly about, and stand behind, the content of that website. I though it was important for voters to know about that particular candidate's history with the Democratic Party," Bailey said.

Dongarra had the highest number of Baltimore County votes among the 10 candidates with 2,027. Ebersole was second with 1,490, followed by Stewart (1,485), Hill (1,472) and Lam (1,433).

Dongarra, a Howard County native, placed fourth overall, according to unofficial election results.

Asked what she might have done differently to win, Dongarra said, "Nothing, because we ran such a positive, issue-driven, grassroots campaign, and we did a lot with a little."

Getting more campaign volunteers to knock on doors in Howard may have helped, she said.

"I would rather lose by being a grassroots candidate without taking special interest money," said Dongarra, a small business owner who resides in Catonsville.

Gisriel, of Catonsville, the candidate with the most funding, received 578 Baltimore County votes in his total of 1,199.

Despite television ads, mailers and knocking on doors in Howard County, he was unable to capture the attention of voters in the area.

"The mass favors those in Howard County," he said. "I spent the majority of my time over there."

He attributed the loss to mailers sent out by Maryland union SEIU Local 500, that said Gisriel "can't be trusted" due to his lobbying and disbarment.

Gisriel sent out a mailer of his own insinuating that Ebersole and Lam were "bought and paid for" by the union, which supported the three winners.

McGuirk-Spence, a Catonsville resident, received 6.4 percent of the unofficial vote, with 1,048 from Baltimore and 777 from Howard.

McGuirk-Spence said because she works for the state government, she was unable to take a leave of absence to focus her undivided attention on the race.

"Intense working didn't allow me to focus all of my time on the campaign," said McGuirk-Spence, who works for the Maryland State Department of Education. "But I think we ran a good campaign."

McGuirk-Spence agreed that those in Baltimore County were at a disadvantage.

"There were eight candidates vying for that third spot," McGuirk-Spence said.

Stewart, a 29-year-old attorney and Arbutus resident who had the endorsement of incumbent Del. James Malone (District 12A) and Gov. Martin O'Malley, received 10.1 percent of the vote. He declined to comment for this story.

Both Sachs and Cohen received less than 800 total votes.

Republicans Gordon Bull, Joseph Hooe and Rick Martel, who ran unopposed in the primary, will run against Ebersole, Hill and Lam in the general election to be held Nov. 4.

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