The final results are in from the June 2 primary election in Howard County, and the ballot with 10 Board of Education candidates and two District 5 Circuit Court judge candidates is set for the general election in November.
Moving on to the general election for the school board are incumbent Christina Delmont-Small and Matthew Molyett in District 1; Antonia Barkley Watts and Larry Pretlow II in District 2; Jolene Mosley and Tom Heffner in District 3; incumbent Jen Mallo and Sezin Palmer in District 4; and Yun Lu and Cindy Vaillancourt in District 5.
Incumbent John J. Kuchno and challenger Quincy L. Coleman will face off in the general election for the Circuit Court judge seat.
The last day for canvassing at the elections office was Friday, with fewer than 1,000 ballots counted. Guy Mickley, director of the Howard County Board of Elections, said he was proud of his staff for their work.
“This is a very labor-intensive process on the back end in comparison to in person voting,” Mickley said Thursday. “My staff has worked very long hours to make sure the voters of Howard County have a fair election. They’ve done a super job, but they’re very tired.”
The primary election was Maryland’s first-ever vote-by-mail statewide election due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and nearly 42% of Howard County voters returned their ballots to be counted. The state sent more than 205,000 ballots, while more than 84,000 were returned. The percentage, after adding the nearly 1,500 residents who voted in person on June 2, is near the 44% of voters who participated in the 2016 primary election, which featured more competitive presidential primaries than the current ballot.
For the June 2 primary election, Howard residents for the first time cast ballots for the Board of Education based on where they live in the county. While still a nonpartisan race, the 17 candidates who filed to run for the five open seats on the school board are categorized by the five County Council districts. The two candidates with the most votes from each district will face off in November’s general election.
Current Vice Chair Vicky Cutroneo and member Chao Wu will remain on the board, serving as the first two at-large members. In 2018, the two won the most votes, securing each a four-year term. In the 2022 election, the new at-large members will be elected by all county voters.
The closest local contest was the Board of Education’s race in District 5. As of 4 p.m. Friday, Lu, who has led the race since early results were first reported June 2, received the most votes at 36.9%.
The second spot was a razor-thin contest between Gene Ryan and Vaillancourt, with only 11 votes separating the two candidates on Monday.
After the final day of canvassing Friday, Vaillancourt, increased her lead to 66 votes — up 16 votes from Wednesday’s margin of 50 — to face off against Lu in November. Vaillancourt, who served on the board between 2010 and 2018, received 23.5% to Ryan’s 23.1%.
“I am grateful,” wrote Vaillancourt in an email Thursday, “that enough people apparently remember the hard work I have done on behalf of the students, families and employees of the [Howard County Public School System] and the community in the past to vote for me this time even without any real ability to do any outreach.”
While the difference is only four-tenths of a percent, Ryan said Thursday he would not ask for a recount unless the margin were within 30 votes, which Vaillancourt cleared Friday.
The next closest race was in District 2. While Watts ran away with 56% of the vote, Pretlow and James Cecil have been within 2 percentage points of each other since June 2. The race wasn’t determined until after Wednesday’s canvassing, when Pretlow had a 172-vote lead. As of Friday, Pretlow received 22.6% of the vote compared to Cecil’s 21.4%.
District 4, a race that featured two incumbents and a competitive challenger, will see current school board member Mallo and newcomer Palmer on the general election ticket. Mallo received 33% of the vote, while Palmer garnered 27.5%. With these results, Palmer has unseated incumbent Kirsten Coombs, who was seeking a second term after winning in 2016 and received 22.6% of the vote in the primary.
“If there is anything that has been made clear by the pandemic and systemic racism today, it is that we still have a lot of work to do to improve education for all children,” Mallo wrote in an email Thursday. “I’m happy to have the chance to continue my advocacy this way.”
The results of the other two Board of Education races were all but decided prior to the election.
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Delmont-Small, a current school board member, and Molyett were the only two candidates to run for the District 1 seat, so they received automatic slots on the general election ballot.
In District 3, three candidates were on the ballot, but Gian P. Alfeo, who withdrew from the race last month after sharing Islamaphobic posts on Facebook, said he would not compete for the seat in the general election even if he had finished in the top two. He didn’t, though, receiving only 7.7% of the vote. Mosley (66%) and Heffner (26.3%) will appear on the ballot in November.
Kuchno, Coleman move on in Circuit Court judge race
In addition to the Board of Education primary, Howard County residents registered with a party also voted for the District 5 Circuit Court judge. Kuchno and Coleman will face off against each other in the general.
While judges aren’t tied to a political party, the process isn’t nonpartisan like the school board primary. The top vote-getter on each party’s side moves on to the general election.
As of 4 p.m. Friday, Kuchno, who was appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan and started his term in January 2019, leads the other three candidates among Republicans — Coleman, Z. Stephen Horvat and Stephen J. Musselman — with 57.2% of the vote. Among Democrats, Coleman increased his lead to 39.1% to Kuchno’s 31%.
“It’s been an honor serving as a judge in Howard County,” Kuchno said in a statement Thursday. “I am very grateful for the outpouring of support from the voters throughout the county.”
“From the beginning, my campaign has been a call to service to increase fairness and justice for all in the judicial system,” Coleman wrote in a statement. “I thank God for my family, friends, neighbors, and the residents of Howard County who voted and supported me in this effort.”