County Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty beat fellow Democrat Alan Klein in all but one precinct in the West Columbia and Fulton District 4 primary, but Klein still insists he did well and his objections to the downtown Columbia redevelopment Sigaty helped craft were not dismissed by voters.
"It absolutely resonated. Everybody I spoke to bought it," Klein said of the Sept. 14 primary. His major issue was his contention that Sigaty had abandoned her promises to protect Columbia's residents from overdevelopment in the 30-year downtown rezoning that calls for up to 5,500 new homes, nearly 6 million square feet of new buildings, and cultural, transportation and social amenities.
She and the other County Council members who unanimously approved the plan in February have maintained they did exactly that by adding safeguards that would halt the work if infrastructure isn't there.
"I think he's wrong," Sigaty said, adding that she was insulted by Klein's Election Night comments that many voters were ill-informed on his issues. "Does he think we're dumb?" she said one voter asked her.
"My experience is that District 4 voters are very savvy," Sigaty said. The lopsided vote result has a clear message, she feels.
"People are basically happy with what's happening," she said. "It really is telling that people are ready to move forward."
According to final elections board results, Klein won only at the precinct at Bryant Woods Elementary School — and there, by only four votes. He lost the 21 other precincts, along with the early vote, absentees and provisional ballots, and he lost by large margins at many precincts outside the Wilde Lake/Harper's Choice area where he was strongly backed by veteran Del. Elizabeth Bobo. In total, he received 38 percent of the vote to Sigaty's 62 percent, or 2,350 votes to her 3,888.
At the two precincts at Clarksville Middle School where Sigaty backer Howard County Executive Ken Ulman and Klein spent much of the day, Sigaty won with 289 to 93 votes in one and 188 to 71 in the other. At Fulton Elementary, she won 142 to 53. At Dunloggin Middle School, in Ellicott City, Sigaty had a 104-40 margin of victory.
"I think people recognized Mary Kay's leadership," Ulman said. "Even those who disagreed on certain issues said, 'You know what, I respect her.' It's a solid win in a tough primary."
Ulman defeated Sigaty in a Democratic County Council primary eight years ago; she joined the council after he vacated his seat to run for county executive.
Sigaty won even in areas where Bobo, Klein's chief backer and ally, overwhelmingly won her own primary race. At Swansfield Elementary, close to Bobo's home, Sigaty got 167 votes to Klein's 62, At Harper's Choice Middle School, she got 99 votes to his 82. Sigaty personally worked the polling place at Wilde Lake High, where she votes, and managed to win there by a narrow 153-139 margin. Only at Bryant Woods was Klein successful, winning with 160 votes to Sigaty's 156. Meanwhile, Bobo, running in her smaller single-member legislative District 12B, covering much of West Columbia, collected 82 percent of the votes against her opponent, John Bailey.
The votes at Clarksville and at River Hill High School, where Sigaty won 91-80, represent a big reversal from her first council campaign in 2002, when Ulman beat her at one precinct then located at the River Hill Community Center by a 283-vote margin — more than enough to seal his eventual 36-vote win. Tensions over Sigaty's volunteer role that year on a high school redistricting committee that led to the school board moving some River Hill students to Atholton High created a wave of resentment against her.
Conversely, at her base at Wilde Lake High School that year, she beat Ulman 244-132.
This year the two were allies, and Ulman provided extensive help, including phone bank volunteers, joint literature and teams of his workers waving Sigaty signs on street corners in West Columbia on the day of the primary.
"Ken said he would do anything he could to get Mary Kay elected, and he did," Klein said. But he said that as a first-time candidate, getting nearly 40 percent of the vote wasn't bad. He has no idea if he'll run again in 2014, he said. "There's a long time between now and the next election, but I'm not going anywhere," he said.
Bobo, who shares Klein's doubts about the downtown plan, said she couldn't see a clear message from voters in the primary results.
"I'm not sure there is any" coherent message, she said, adding that while some voters liked both incumbents and voted for them despite the disagreement over the downtown plan, others took Klein's objections to heart. "There are a significant number of people who are concerned and others who aren't," she said.
Sigaty faces her 2006 Republican opponent Tom D'Asto in the general election, while Bobo faces the GOP's Robert Wheatley.