Some of the closest finishes in Tuesday’s primary election were in the races for House of Delegates seats in District 34 which takes in the greater Bel Air area and the Route 40 corridor.
In District 35B, a single House of Delegates seat representing greater Bel Air, incumbent Republican Susan McComas held just a 24-vote lead in a four-way primary over Walter “Butch” Tilley after Tuesday’s unofficial count, followed by current County Councilman Jim McMahan and Jan Marie Christensen far back in third and fourth, respectively.
McComas’ lead over Tilley widened a bit to 62 after Thursday’s first canvass of 411 absentee ballots. Several hundred more absentee ballots will be counted on July 6, following the July 5 canvass of 348 provisional ballots, the latter which still must be certified, elections officials said.
Harford elections officials sent out 762 absentee ballots. They must still count ballots being sent by voters in the military or who live overseas — those ballots will count as long as they were postmarked by the date of the election June 26, Dale Livingston, deputy director of the Harford County Board of Elections, said after Thursday’s canvass.
Because of the relatively small size of the legislative district, only a fraction of any remaining uncounted ballots will be from 34B.
“I thought the election was well fought and well conducted by all the candidates, and the results reflected the will of the people,” Tilley said after Thursday’s absentee ballots were counted.
Tilley picked up 16 more votes, compared to 44 more for McComas, who is seeking a fourth term in Annapolis. The incumbent led 1,080 to 1,018.
“I look forward to working with whoever prevails,” said Tilley, a current Liquor Control Board member making his first try at an elected office.
James McMahan, a veteran Harford County Council member, was in third with 728 votes, and Jan Marie Christensen had 540 votes.
Whoever prevails between McComas and Tilley will face Democrat Jeff Dinger, who did not have a primary opponent, in the November general election. Dinger had 2,009 votes as of Thursday, according to the unofficial vote totals.
The two incumbents representing the Route 40 corridor District 34A appeared to have survived their respective primaries on Tuesday and will move on to the November general election.
Who will join them in the other two slots on the ballot in November remained too close to call after Tuesday’s unofficial count, however.
The rankings of the four Republican candidates did not change after the first absentee canvass.
Incumbent Del. Glen Glass remained in the lead with 1,730 votes in Tuesday’s unofficial returns, followed by J.D. Russell with 1,688 and Monica Worrell with 1,636. R. Douglas Anstine was in fourth with just 166 votes.
Glass, who was picking up his campaign signs across his district Tuesday night, said he is confident he’d remain in the lead in the tight race, a prediction that held up as of Thursday. The top two vote-getters will advance to the general.
“I always thought I’d win first place without a doubt. I have momentum on my side and we’re getting more and more votes every minute,” Glass, an Aberdeen resident who is seeking a third term, said Tuesday. “The people of this district believe in me because I work hard and I fight for them. I put the citizens of my district first before the party bosses and I think they believe in me and want me back in there.”
Glass had local law enforcement unions working against him in the primary because he voted against legislation to give the Harford County Deputy Sheriff’s Union collective bargaining rights. He insisted he supports law enforcement, but opposes collective bargaining because he believes it leads to higher taxes and “less benefits to citizens,” as he wrote in a recent letter to the editor.
Russell said late Tuesday he wasn’t ready to claim victory yet – he’d have to wait and see how the final numbers come out with absentee and provisional ballot counts.
Worrell, however, said it doesn’t seem likely she’ll be able to pull ahead of Russell.
“There’s a 52 vote difference and 54 absentee ballots. The probability of me getting 100 percent of them is slim,” said Worrell.
The Havre de Grace City Council member said she’s not disappointed by the results, however. In 2014, she lost the GOP nomination for a county council seat by a handful of votes.
“At this point, I look at why I did it, because I believe in helping my community. That’s not just a tagline,” Worrell said. “Whether I’m supporting the community this way or another way, that’s always going to be part of my world.”
Worrell said she feels blessed by the outpouring of support from everyone who worked on her campaign.
“I had an incredible group of volunteers, an incredible group of people pulling for me,” she said.
Russell he’s excited and prepared to move on to the general election with a good campaign.
Russell said he worked hard, went door to door and followed up with voters he met.
“I heard people, I connected with people and worked hard,” he said.
There were three really good candidates in the race, running good campaigns, he said.
“And they’re good community advocates,” Russell said. “When you have three good candidates running, it’s going to be close.”
On the Democratic side, incumbent Mary Ann Lisanti won renomination toward a second term with 3,731 votes as of Thursday, according to the unofficial count.
The race for the second seat was close, however, with Steve Johnson leading Sarahia Benn 2,154 to 2,083, just 71 votes separating the two after the absentee canvass.
Benn, a first-time candidate, watched the counting Thursday with her 12-year-old son, Rahman Washington, and her son’s friend. She expressed pride in picking up more than a quarter of the vote in her race, despite not being as well funded as her opponents.
“All I had was my [business] card, my word and my message, and I think that’s pretty darn good,” the Aberdeen resident said.
Lisanti, Harford County’s only Democratic officeholder, said she doesn’t take anything for granted.
“I run for the office. My campaign is all about my service to my constituents,” she said Wednesday. “I’ve dedicated my life to public service. Since been in legislature, I think I’ve proven I can work across the aisles and I have been able to pass a tremendous amount of legislation that benefits taxpayers and businesses.”
She said she’s worked for good government and with a lot of different people to get outcomes.
“That’s what I’ll be judged on come November,” she said. “There’s no reason for me to be concerned about whoever’s on the ballot.”
The campaign for the general election will be broader, Lisanti said, whereas in the primary she was focused on gaining the Democratic nomination.
“Now that I’ve gained that, this is seeking support of the community at large. This is where I talk to everybody – independents, Republicans and Democrats, and say this is who we will work together as a community to move forward,” she said.
Lisanti also said she can “absolutely” still win in as a Democrat in Harford County.
During previous door-knocking campaigns for Harford County Council and House of Delegates, Lisanti said when she told people she was a Democrat, most refused her literature.
“This year, they didn’t refuse it,” she said. “That was an unexpected outcome at doors.”
Her strength comes from being able to bring everybody to the table, Lisanti said.
“That’s my way of doing things. I’m not an ideologue, I’m just a person that wants to solve problems and get results,” Lisanti said. “I will work with whoever I need to to get the outcome we’re looking for.”
She admits, however, she is surprised by how close the race was on the Republican side.
“It’s tells me there’s not a clear front-runner, there’s not a standout,” Lisanti said. “There’s no legislative standout between them, which kind of sends a message to me that there’s nothing that distinguishes themselves, that they’re pretty vanilla among themselves. I would have thought somebody would have risen to the top a little bit more.”
In the race for the Democratic nomination to the District 34 Senate seat former delegate Mary-Dulany James won with nearly 75 percent of the vote over Kreamer, another former delegate. James had 5,712 votes as of Thursday, compared to 1,976 for Kreamer.
That result sets up a rematch in the general election between James and incumbent Republican Sen. Bob Cassilly, who easily won the state four years ago.