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Race tightens for Baltimore County executive as first absentee ballots counted

Baltimore County elections judges began tallying absentee ballots Thursday from this week’s primary election, as the winner of the Democratic nomination for county executive continued to hang in the balance. (Jay Reed/Baltimore Sun video)

Former state Del. Johnny Olszewski Jr.’s lead in the race for the Democratic nomination for Baltimore County executive narrowed to just 42 votes Thursday as county officials tallied absentee ballots from the primary election.

Following a round of absentee ballot reviews, Olszewski still led state Sen. Jim Brochin, 27,270 votes to 27,228, for the party nomination.

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County Councilwoman Vicki Almond remained in third place with 26,211 votes — 1,059 behind Olszewski.

County elections officials still must count thousands more provisional as well as some absentee ballots — so the result of the race might not be known until the end of next week.

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Going into Thursday’s absentee count, Olszewski held a 346-vote lead over Brochin.

Olszewski, from Dundalk, remained positive despite seeing his lead shrink.

“I remain excited about where we are in this race: Thousands of additional votes have been counted and we still have the lead,” he said. “I remain committed to ensuring that every vote is counted in an open, accessible and transparent way.”

Brochin, a Cockeysville resident, also was optimistic.

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“We are encouraged by this positive trend,” he said, “and I am committed to seeing the process through to the end so every vote is counted.”

It could be the end of next week before a winner can be declared in the Democratic primary for Baltimore County executive, a race that ended Tuesday night with three candidates separated by just over 1,000 votes.

Almond, from Reisterstown, called the ballot review from the tight race “democracy at its finest, and serves as proof that every single vote is important.

“I eagerly await final results next week,” she said.

A fourth Democrat on the ballot, Kevin Marron, a Parkville man who spent less than $1,000 on his campaign, had 2,074 votes.

Election judges worked in 18 bipartisan teams on Thursday to open absentee envelopes, remove the ballots and tally them at the county elections office in Hunt Valley.

About two dozen observers — mostly from the campaigns — watched the process unfold over the course of the day. None of the candidates was present.

Elections officials had mailed out 3,601 absentee ballots to Democratic voters in the county, as well as 1,295 to Republicans and 186 to unaffiliated and third-party voters.

A second round of absentee ballot counting will be held July 6. Absentee ballots are counted as long as they were postmarked by election day and arrive at the elections office by the second round of counting.

Elections officials also still need to review and count about 2,400 provisional ballots that were cast during early voting and on election day. Those ballots will be counted on July 5.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican nominee Al Redmer Jr. in the November general election.

With the absentee ballots that were counted on Thursday, Redmer’s tally over his opponent, Del. Patrick L. McDonough, grew slightly. Redmer had 17,772 votes to McDonough’s 14,124.

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