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 the top three candidates separated by just over 1,000 votes.
Former state Del. Johnny Olszewski Jr. held a 346-vote lead over state Sen. Jim Brochin. County Councilwoman Vicki Almond was 727 votes behind Brochin.
Elections officials say there are thousands of absentee and provisional ballots still to count.
The county mailed out 3,601 absentee ballots to Democratic voters; 2,085 had been returned by Wednesday. To be counted, absentee ballots must have been postmarked by Tuesday and arrive by July 6.
Officials begin counting on Thursday and continue through July 6.
Another 2,400 provisional ballots were cast during early voting and on election day, county elections director Katie Brown said. It’s not known how many of those ballots were cast by Democrats and how many by Republicans. Provisional ballots are to be counted July 5.
The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican state Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer Jr. in November. Redmer, an ally of Gov. Larry Hogan, won the GOP primary Tuesday.
Olszewski, Brochin and Almond thanked supporters on Wednesday, rested and prepared for the absentee and provisional counts.
Olszewski, a former three-term state delegate from Dundalk, said he was “a little tired, but also energized at the same time.”
“I’m proud of the message we shared,” he said. “It was a positive message about what’s possible in Baltimore County.”
He acknowledged a winner might not be declared until the end of next week. He said it was important to make sure all outstanding votes are recorded.
Brochin, a four-term state senator from Cockeysville, said he spent Wednesday catching up on chores: doing laundry, getting his cable television repaired, cleaning out his car.
“I’m actually pretty calm. I’m really relieved that I gave it everything I had,” Brochin said. “I didn't leave anything out. I did everything from loaning myself my own personal money to knocking on every door I could to staying up every night until 3 a.m. editing my commercials and making sure the campaign was run the way I wanted it to run, which is fair and with integrity.”
Almond, a two-term county councilwoman from Reisterstown, would need a surge from absentee and provisional ballots to win. She did not attend an afternoon work session of the Baltimore County Council in Towson and did not respond to requests for comment.
With 247 of 250 precincts reporting in the Democratic primary, Olszewski had 26,820 votes for 33.1 percent of the total, according to unofficial results posted by the county elections board. The three outstanding precincts represent the absentee ballots and the provisional ballots.
Brochin had 26,474 votes for 32.7 percent. Almond had 25,747 for 31.8 percent.
Kevin Marron, a Parkville man who spent less than $1,000 on his campaign, tallied 2,034 votes for 2.5 percent.
As Democrats sweat out the results, Redmer savored his victory and began working toward the general election campaign. He planned to march in a parade in Rosedale on Wednesday and was adding events to his calendar.
His primary opponent, Del. Patrick L. McDonough of Middle River, refused to concede and hinted he might run in the general election as a write-in candidate.
“I’m not going to endorse him and I’m not going to support him, because there are things more important than party politics,” McDonough said. “That is principle and integrity. His attacks went way over the line.”
Redmer criticized McDonough in a television ad and mailers as “a career politician” with a poor attendance record in the General Assembly.
McDonough said he plans to return to his weekly show on WCBM radio and is working to create a newsletter that would appeal to “populist conservatism.”
Redmer said he intends to go back to work as the state insurance commissioner Thursday after taking vacation days to campaign. He’s watching closely how the Democratic primary turns out — not only because he needs to know who is opponent will be, but because he loves politics.
“I find this stuff fun and interesting,” he said. “If you like this stuff generally, and you’ve got a close race like that, it’s like watching a football game go into overtime.
“I’m very thankful they’re doing it and not me.”