Political newcomer Liz Walsh held on to her upset victory over incumbent Howard County Councilman Jon Weinstein in last month’s Democratic primary after a recount Wednesday.
Walsh gained two votes in the recount and Weinstein lost two, making the final tally 3,175 votes for Walsh and 3,169 for Weinstein.
The race was one of the closest in recent county history and will mean that the next five-member County Council, to be installed in December, will have all new members.
Walsh picked up a vote from a Centennial High School poll and a vote from early voting at the Bain Center.
Walsh said she was grateful to the Board of Elections for running a smooth recount, and said her focus is now on moving into the general election, when she’ll face Republican Raj Kathuria, who was unopposed in his party’s primary.
“We feel good,” she said. “[This] validated that every vote counts.”
Weinstein, who has represented District 1, which includes Ellicott City since 2014, could not be immediately reached for comment.
In a statement posted on his campaign website, Weinstein conceded defeat.
“The election and recount process worked as designed, to count and confirm every vote, and the results show that I did not prevail in the primary,” according to the statement.
“There will be a proper time to reflect on this outcome, but for now my thoughts are for the future of District 1 and Howard County, especially Ellicott City’s recovery and rebuilding,” Weinstein wrote. “There are many challenges and opportunities ahead for our County and its community and elected officials. My sincere hope, as it has been my intent throughout my term, that we can all work together to achieve the best outcomes for as many people as possible.”
Howard County Board of Elections Director Guy Mickley said he couldn’t say for certain why the two votes changed, but that it was a result of action taken by the Board of Canvassers, which reviews any questioned votes.
The directors of the county’s election board, who serve as the Board of Canvassers, certified the results. The board is made up of three Republicans and two Democrats, and at least three members, two Republicans and one Democrat, must be present to vote on any questioned ballots.
Both Walsh and Weinstein sent attorneys to monitor the recount. Walsh came to the recount early in the morning and returned for the conclusion. Weinstein did not attend.
Walsh was represented by Dara Lindenbaum, a Washington-based lawyer with the political law firm Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock. Lindenbaum wouldn’t say when Walsh hired her, but said she has other recent experience with recount cases, including a 2014 Prince George’s County Council race that was decided by six votes. She represented the winner Deni Taveras, who held onto his win during the recount.
Weinstein was represented by the Greenbelt-based firm MarcusBonsib LLC. Attorneys Sydney Patterson and Bruce Marcus were present at the recount. The firm specializes in several areas, including criminal defense and election law. Patterson said Weinstein hired the firm before to the recount.
A blue tape line separated onlookers from election staff, the attorneys peered over shoulders of elections officials as they recounted the ballots one by one. Lindenbaum said she was watching to ensure each vote was counted accurately.
Sixty people from six county boards of elections, as well as the state, worked together in the Howard County Board of Elections’ Columbia warehouse to recount 6,344 ballots.
The recount finished in just over four hours, several hours earlier than anticipated. The recount finished even before pizza arrived for the staff.
This story will be updated.