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Abingdon / Edgewood
News Maryland Harford County Abingdon / Edgewood

Harford voters stay home on primary day; results have few surprises

Amid what for most of the day Tuesday was a lackluster turnout, Harford County voters went about choosing major party nominees for county and state offices in the 2014 primary election.

As early returns trickled in after the polls closed at 8 p.m., there appeared to be few surprises in local races where there were contested primaries, although all were still way to close to call.

Of note in the Republican primary for Harford County Council President, Councilman Dick Slutzky beat former council president Robert Wagner and a third candidate, Todd Paterniti, for his party's nomination, while on the Democratic side, school board member James Thornton easily defeated Christopher Boardman. The current council president, Republican Billy Boniface, is retiring after two terms.

Slutzky garnered about 47 percent of the vote.

Around 10 p.m. Tuesday, Slutzky said he was watching the results pretty closely as they came but was not ready to declare victory even though he had the lead with more than a quarter of the precincts counted.

"I know right now I guess the numbers are looking good," he said. "We feel comfortable right now we are moving in the right direction."

He also said he did not have any specific expectations for the election.

"We just did what we thought we could do," he said.

In the Republican primary for the District D northern Harford council seat, incumbent Councilman Chad Shrodes all but secured his third term with a commanding victory over challenger Johnathan Grimmel. There are no Democrats entered in this race, leaving Shrodes with an uncontested general election, as was the case four years ago.

Incumbent Councilman Jim McMahan took 53 percent of the vote in his bid for the GOP nomination in District C in the greater Bel Air and Forest Hill areas. McMahan, who is seeking his third term, was opposed by Eric Daxon and Dave Mitchell.

In the general election, McMahan will meet Democrat Gina Kazimir, who didn't have a primary opponent.

McMahan said he had not been following the results as of about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, as he was out putting up "thank you" signs.

"I will be very honest with you, I have no feelings," he said about being informed that he was ahead. "I couldn't get a grasp on this primary to save my life."

"It was, in my mind, anybody's contest until I got the phone call saying the projection looks good for me," McMahan said. "Now that I have gotten the positive news, obviously I am elated and that [the primary] is only half the battle."

In the contest for the Republican nomination for sheriff, Jeff Gahler, the party's 2010 nominee, easily beat John Ryan, setting the stage for a likely November showdown with incumbent Sheriff Jesse Bane, who did not have an opponent in the Democratic primary.

Though Gahler had almost a two to one early lead over Ryan with about 40 percent of the precincts counted, he declined to claim the nomination.

"It's encouraging to see, but I won't claim victory or defeat until it's a done deal, until the election board tells us so," he said.

By early Tuesday evening, polling places around the county were still reporting votes being cast only in the hundreds, and that's all the votes that were cast in some of the county council and school board primaries, where voting is restricted to residents of a particular district.

"It's been slow as molasses, pretty amazing, pretty sad," Harford Deputy Elections Director Dale Livingston said about 4 p.m. Tuesday.

According to Livingston, as of 3 p.m., just 14,681 people had voted since polling places opened at 7 a.m. Though voting is typically heavy in the three hours before the polls close at 8 p.m., Livingston wasn't expecting a flood of last-minute voters at any of the county's 62 polling places.

Even at many of the county's larger precincts, voters were outnumbered by campaign workers outside and election judges inside.

Several people who did come out to vote in the sunny weather, with temperatures in the mid to upper 80s, said they were voting for specific candidates in specific races and didn't know much, if anything, about those running in the other races.

"It's very discouraging what's going on in America today," Richard Murphy, of Edgewood, said before voting at Magnolia Elementary School. "I don't have much faith in our government at all."

Harford had 158,858 eligible voters for the primary, all of whom could vote for something, with most of the action involving Republican and Democratic candidates for governor down to county central committees.

Livingston said the total eligible voter figure was compiled by the State Board of Elections, and she did not have the breakdown for Democrats, Republicans and all others; however, prior to the registration books closing for the primary, the county's GOP was holding a 5,000 voter edge in registrations over the Dems.

There were 6,261 early voters in Harford, and when their votes were posted online shortly after the polls closed, about the only local surprise was that Harford County Executive David Craig had only a slim lead over Larry Hogan in their four-way contest for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Craig had said he was counting on a big vote in Harford, where he has led the county government for nine years, but he didn't get it. and Hogan won the GOP, where he'll face Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who won Tuesday's Democratic primary.

For Craig, who had lost only one other election in a political career spanning 38 years as a city councilman and mayor in Havre de Grace, a state delegate and state senator and a record tenure as county executive, Tuesday's defeat may well have signaled his exit from elected office.

The wide variety of races and candidates on the ballot didn't seem to be an attraction for many, however, nor did the presence of a marquee race for nominations for governor in both major parties. There were exceptions, however.

"I came out today because I believe everybody should vote," said Kay-Lee Handlin, 18, a 2013 graduate of Fallston High School, who voted for the first time Tuesday. "I believe you have the right and you should do it."

A number of the primary races for local offices, among them county executive, were uncontested with single candidates filed on both the Republican and Democratic sides, State Sen. Barry Glassman for the GOP and first-timer Joseph Werner on the Democratic side.

Glassman opened up his campaign headquarters in downtown Bel Air after the polls closed to greet well-wishers and the prospective nominees for other local offices that will be on the Republican ticket in November, but the mood was fairly subdued early on.

The biggest battleground for the Democrats locally was in the newly drawn Route 40 and Bel Air-Abingdon Legislative District 34, where 16-year State Sen. Nancy Jacobs is retiring.

Veteran state Del. Mary-Dulany James and Arthur Helton were locked in an expensive race for their party's nomination, with the winner to take on Republican Bob Cassilly in November. It turned out to be no contest, however, as James went up early and continued to build an insurmountable lead.

With James running for the senate, several candidates from both parties were attracted to run for the two delegate seats covering the Route 40 area of District 34, among them incumbent Republican Del. Glen Glass, who is seeking his second term in the House and was renominated Tuesday. One of the successful Democrats in the delegate race Tuesday was County Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti.

This year was the first time Harford has elected six members of the nine-member school board at one time. The top two finishers in Tuesday's nonpartisan election for those seats, one for each county council district, will square off in the November general election.

Incumbent board members Robert Frisch, in District B; Alysson Krchnavy, in District C; Nancy Reynolds, in District D; Arthur Kaff, in District D; and Tom Fitzpatrick, in District F, all finished in the top two in their respective districts to make it onto the general election ballot, although Kaff and Krchnavy came in second to Rachel Gautheri and Joseph Voskul, respectively, and Fitzpatrick was ahead of Michael Hitchings by fewer than 100 votes.

Also of note from Tuesday's primary was the assured victory of Circuit Court Judge Yolanda Curtin who was unopposed for a full 15-year term.

For full election returns, be sure to visit http://www.theaegis.com.

Aegis staff members David Anderson and Bryna Zumer contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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