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Catherine Pugh officially wins Democratic primary in Baltimore mayor's race

Catherine Pugh has officially won Baltimore's Democratic primary for mayor.

Baltimore's Board of Elections formally certified Monday that state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh won the Democratic primary for mayor. The official tally came after last week's count of absentee and provisional ballots did not change the unofficial result in any race.

Pugh defeated former Mayor Sheila Dixon — who has questioned the integrity of the April 26 primary and is mulling legal options — 36.6 percent to 34.7 percent.

Dixon has three days to ask for a recount, which she would need to pay for with campaign funds. A court challenge would have to be filed within seven days.

Martha McKenna, a spokeswoman for Dixon, said the former mayor's team has yet to analyze precinct-level data to make an informed decision about a recount.

"While Sheila Dixon picked up votes from the provisional ballot count, we will analyze the precinct-level data before making decisions about the next steps," McKenna said.

Pugh and Dixon finished well ahead of the other 10 candidates in the crowded Democratic primary for mayor. Lawyer Elizabeth Embry finished third with 11.7 percent of the vote. City Councilman Nick J. Mosby appeared on the primary ballot, but dropped out of the race the week before the election.

The Democratic nominee faces Republican Alan Walden and Green Party nominee Joshua Harris in the November election. The heavily Democratic city has for decades chosen a Democrat for mayor.

As she did on election night, Pugh declared victory Monday and thanked voters.

"I am excited to focus on the general election and then begin the process of moving our city forward," Pugh said in a statement. "It is my intent to continue to use this campaign as an opportunity to listen to the people of our city and to share my vision for making Baltimore even greater."

Dixon congratulated Pugh on her apparent victory on Election Day but then joined in complaints about irregularities in the voting process that were raised by activists and City Council candidates. Among the issues: Eight data files went missing for about a day after the election, and some polling precincts opened late.

Thirty-four released felons — eligible to vote under a new law — also received a Board of Elections letter before the election erroneously telling them they might not be able to vote.

Hassan Giordano, an activist who has been examining election issues, said he and other members of the group Voters Organized for the Integrity of City Elections will meet with lawyers Tuesday to decide whether to challenge the results. He said the group has compiled a spreadsheet that documents a series of problems from the election, such as voters who said they were wrongly turned away from the polls when election judges could not find their registration information.

Giordano said he is concerned that voters were disenfranchised.

"Our goal never had anything to do with the results, but with the process," said Giordano, a Dixon campaign volunteer. "Based off of the numerous irregularities, the process itself was flawed. We really need to re-examine how the election was done. We can't have this happen in November."

The three City Council contenders in close races said Monday they would not seek a recount.

Kelly Cross, who lost the Democratic nomination in Central Baltimore's 12th District to Robert Stokes Sr., said he was moving on. Stokes garnered 33.6 percent of the vote to Cross' 29.4 percent.

"I'm beyond that," Cross said of seeking a recount. "I feel great. We had a very strong showing, despite entering the race late. If I had had two more weeks, we could have taken the race."

Charlie Metz, who came within about 135 votes of defeating incumbent Edward Reisinger for the City Council's 10th District in South Baltimore, said he feels "pretty satisfied" with the integrity of the election. He is considering a write-in campaign in November.

"The ballot system was pretty fair with paper ballots as a backup," said Metz, a business owner from Morrell Park. "I came up a couple of votes short."

In another tight race, Isaac "Yitzy" Schleifer edged out Betsy Gardner, 33.8 percent to 28.8 percent, in Northwest Baltimore's 5th District Democratic primary for City Council.

Gardner said she is "going to accept" the results and "move on and continue serving the citizens in the capacity I have been." Gardner lost to Schleifer by fewer than 550 votes.

"I am very disappointed in the process and what the city went through," said Gardner, who works as a liaison to the City Council president's office for residents in Northwest Baltimore. She also is the council president's citywide Jewish community liaison.

Gardner said some voters reported being given a ballot for the wrong district at a 5th District polling station. Others, she said, were turned away from a polling station because an election judge did not have accurate information on which district was voting at that precinct.

"It is very disheartening in this day and age to have this lack of training and lack of experience," she said.

A losing candidate is entitled to a recount at government expense only if the margin is 0.1 percent or less. Otherwise, the loser must bear the cost unless the recount is successful or reduces the winner's count by at least 2 percent of the total vote.

More than 133,000 Baltimoreans voted in the Democratic primary for mayor — a large increase from recent elections. The 2011 Democratic primary for mayor drew about 74,000 voters.

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