Five things to watch in Carroll County's 2018 midterm elections Tuesday

With Election Day here, there are a handful of key items to look out for Tuesday when it comes to local races in Carroll.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. For a full list of polling places, visit https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/PollingPlaceSearch.

1. The Board of Education race

Six candidates are running for three Board of Education seats with only one incumbent vying for a spot, leaving a fairly open race in Carroll.

Bob Lord, the current school board president, is the only incumbent running. He came in second during the primary, with 6,947 votes. Current County Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, is also running for a spot, and came in sixth during the primaries, with 5,254 votes.

The other four candidates are Patricia Ann Dorsey, a retired elementary school principal; Tara Battaglia, a parent and community activist; Kenneth Kiler, an executive at a construction company and founder of the Manchester Wrestling program; and Mary Kowalski, a former Carroll schools employee and current citizen activist.

Dorsey came out on top by nearly 4,000 votes during the primary election with a total of 10,685 votes, followed by Lord. In third was Battaglia with 5,910 votes, fourth was Kowalski with 5,658 votes, and fifth was Kiler with 5,277 votes.

Big issues candidates have been campaigning on range from school safety to budget concerns to the Redistricting and School Closure Committee’s report.

2. Could a Democrat win a seat representing Carroll County in the state legislature?

In legislative district 5, which covers the majority of Carroll County, three Republican incumbents are running against one Democrat for the House of Delegates, and one incumbent Republican senator is also running against a Democrat.

In the primaries, Del. Susan Krebs, R-District 5, garnered the most votes with 9,351, Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5, got 8,633 and Del. April Rose, R-District 5, picked up 8,177 votes. David Ellin, an attorney who ran as a Republican, secured 4,086 votes. Emily Shank, an attorney, was the lone Democrat running for a District 5 seat in the House. She earned 4,575 votes in the primary. Voters may choose up to three candidates.

Sen. Justin Ready, R-District 5, secured 10,514 votes and opponent Democrat Jamie O’Marr got 4,445, both running uncontested.

In a majority Republican county, if either Shank of O’Marr take a seat, it will be the first time in decades since a Democrat represented Carroll in the legislature.

Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats more than 2-1 in legislative District 5, according to data from the Maryland Board of Elections, but approximately 20 percent of the district’s 99,365 registered voters are registered as unaffiliated. Shank’s campaign has mirrored that of Democrats at the national level, attempting to appeal to independent voters and moderates.

The last Democrat elected to represent Carroll County in the General Assembly was Richard Dixon, who served in the House from 1983 to 1996, said Jennifer Hafner Abbott, of the Maryland State Archives, in an email. Dixon died in 2012.

Dixon was not the last Democrat to represent Carroll in the legislature, Hafner Abbott said. Dixon became state treasurer in January 1996 and resigned his seat, after which Ellen Willis Miller was appointed to serve the remainder of his term, and served from 1996 to 1999.

3. Could Carroll elect its first female judge to the Circuit Court bench?

Voters will choose between retaining Judge Richard Titus or electing Maria Oesterreicher to serve on the Circuit Court bench in Carroll County.

Titus was appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan in 2016, filling a spot on the bench left open after the retirement of Judge Michael Galloway. By law, judges appointed to the Circuit Court must run in a nonpartisan election if they wish to continue serving. If re-elected, they serve 15-year terms.

Oesterreicher, a former senior prosecutor in the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office, is seeking to become the first female Circuit Court judge in the court’s 180-year history.

Titus worked as an attorney in Carroll County for more than 20 years, and was one of nine applicants, along with Oesterreicher, for the vacancy. He was one of four finalists chosen by the Trial Courts Nominating Commission who were interviewed by Hogan before being selected.

After spending 14 years in the State’s Attorney’s Office, with a focus on domestic violence cases, Oesterreicher is currently working for the Department of Human Services drafting legislation and testifying before the state legislature on behalf of the Maryland Child Support Administration.

Maryland law requires all judicial candidates to appear on both ballots in the Republican and Democratic primaries, and the top vote-getters in each party’s primary appear on the general election ballot in a nonpartisan race.

Titus finished first in the Republican primary, with 7,267 votes, while Oesterreicher was the top vote-getter in the Democratic primary, garnering 3,704 votes. Titus received 2,154 votes from Democrats and Oesterreicher had 2,426 from Republicans in June.

4. Will voters choose experience or name recognition for Clerk of the Circuit Court?

Long-time Clerk of the Circuit Court Donald Sealing opted to run for Judge of the Orphan’s Court, creating an opening for the position Sealing had held since his election in 2006.

The clerk files and processes records pertaining to civil, criminal and juvenile court cases in Carroll County’s Circuit Court. The clerk also maintains land records and issues marriage and business licenses.

On down ballot races such as these, voters tend to favor name recognition and party. And because these positions are largely administrative, the candidates don’t vary much on issues.

The Democratic candidate is Terrie Connolly, currently the senior manager of courtroom operations for the Carroll County Circuit Court. Connolly has more than 30 years of experience working for the Maryland judiciary in the criminal, juvenile, civil, land records, courtroom and licensing departments.

Her opponent is Republican Heather DeWees, a social studies teacher and basketball coach in Carroll County Public Schools, and wife of Sheriff Jim DeWees, who is running uncontested for re-election to his post.

In June’s Republican primary, Heather DeWees defeated challengers Missi Green, a 30-plus-year administrative court employee, and Robin Frazier, a former county commissioner. Connolly ran uncontested in the Democratic primary.

5. Will voter turnout mirror early voting trends?

A key item to keep an eye on this year is if voter turnout is higher overall this election, comparing both presidential and gubernatorial races in recent years, or if voting has just been spread out more between early voting and Election Day, particularly with the opening of a second early voting center at the South Carroll Swim Club for the first time this election.

The first day of early voting this year had more than doubled that of the first day of early voting in the 2014 mid-term election and was keeping pace with the first day of early voting in the 2016 presidential election. Presidential races typically bring out more voters than mid-term races.

After eight days of early voting, a total of 16,929 voters had turned out — not including provisional or absentee voters — which equates to 14 percent of eligible active voters. That’s slightly less than eight days of early voting in the 2016 Presidential Election, when 19,426, or 16.39 percent of eligible active voters, turned out. But it’s nearly double that of 2014 mid-terms, where 8,014 voters, or 7.7 percent, turned out for early voting.

In 2010, 5,208 people — 4.95 percent — came out during early voting, and in 2012, 10,409 people — 9.43 percent — voted early.

In terms of total voting numbers, both the 2010 and 2014 mid-term elections and the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections had similar percentage of turnout in Carroll County. In 2010, 64,103 people — or 60.93 percent of eligible, active voters — came out. In 2014, the last gubernatorial race, 64,764 people — or 57.34 percent — voted.

Turnout was up in presidential election years, in 2012, 97,905 people — or 79.62 percent — turned out; in 2016, 92,476 people — or 77.65 percent — voted in Carroll.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
37°