As more ballots trickle in, two Howard County Board of Education races have razor-thin margins

Since Friday, the Howard County Board of Elections counted at least 15,000 additional mail-in ballots from the June 2 primary election.

With only a few days of canvassing left, two Howard County Board of Education races are extremely close and will not be decided until every ballot has been counted. Only 1% separates Larry Pretlow II and James Cecil for the second spot in November’s general election for District 2. There is a slim 11-vote difference between former school board member Cindy Vaillancourt and Gene Ryan for the second spot in District 5.


As of 2 p.m. Monday, at least 73,000 ballots cast by voters registered with a party had been counted. On top of the approximately 1,500 in-person voters from Tuesday, at least 71,000 of the nearly 76,000 mail ballots from voters registered with a party had been counted. More than 8,000 additional mail ballots have also been received from independent voters — who could vote in the Board of Education primary only — but it’s not clear how many of those ballots have been counted. More than 4,000 absentee ballots have also been received by the elections office, which will complete its ballot canvassing Friday.

Over the weekend, an additional 5,000 ballots were received by the elections office, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections. Ballots received after the primary date must have a postmark of June 2 or earlier to be counted. So far, at least 42% of Howard County residents voted in the June 2 primary, compared to 44% in the 2016 presidential primary.


For Tuesday’s mostly vote-by-mail primary, 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.

In District 2, Pretlow and Cecil are separated by only 138 votes. Both candidates trail front-runner Antonia Barkley Watts, who has 55.5% of the vote and has clinched her spot on the general election ballot. With several thousand ballots still to be counted, and possibly hundreds in District 2, the winner between Pretlow and Cecil likely won’t be known until every ballot is counted.

“It’s very nerve-wracking, but I am extremely optimistic that things will work out for our campaign,” Pretlow said Monday. “This was quite a challenge for our campaign, and if we are successful in this primary, we are not nervous about the impressive lead Ms. Watts has accumulated.”

In District 5, Yun Lu leads the way with 36.9% and is poised to appear on the ballot in November. The other candidate alongside her in the general election is up in the air, though, and is one of the closest elections in the entire state. Vaillancourt leads Ryan by only 11 votes. Of the 15,336 votes counted in District 5, Vaillancourt has received 3,610 to Ryan’s 3,599. Similar to District 2, District 5 will have to wait several days until the winner between Vaillancourt and Ryan is decided.

“I’ve run for election before, as has Cindy, so we both very much get how elections go,” Ryan said Monday. “Historically, election night is very fun to celebrate. This one, it seems like it’ll never end. I’m happy to see such a large turnout; that’s been great to see. Wednesday’s canvassing will help us know how we’re doing.”

The two winners in District 3 were decided Thursday night, as Jolene Mosley and Tom Heffner beat out Gian P. Alfeo, who withdrew from the race last month after sharing Islamaphobic posts on Facebook but is still on the ballot. As of 2 p.m. Monday, Mosley has received nearly 66% of the vote, while Heffner is at 26.4%. District 3 joins District 1 as the only districts to have been decided, as Matthew Molyett and incumbent Christina Delmont-Small automatically advanced to the general as the only two candidates in District 1.

While the race in District 4 can’t be called yet, incumbent Jen Mallo and Sezin Palmer have continued to sustain their leads. Mallo is in first at 32.9%, while Palmer is at 27.5%. If the numbers hold, Palmer would unseat incumbent Kirsten Coombs, who was seeking a second term after winning in 2016 and is sitting at 22.6%.

Kuchno, Coleman poised to move on in Circuit Court judge race

In addition to the Board of Education primary, Howard County residents also voted for District 5 Circuit Court judge. With the additional ballots counted, incumbent John J. Kuchno and Quincy L. Coleman look poised to face off against each other in November.

As of 2 p.m. Monday, 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 57.3% of the vote. Among Democrats, Coleman has increased his lead to 38.3% to Kuchno’s 31.5%.

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 will move on to the general election.

Howard BOE

Results of Howard County Board of Education primary
Howard County Board of Education District 2
Antonia Watts (Nonpartisan)
Larry Pretlow, II (Nonpartisan)
James Cecil (Nonpartisan)
3 of 4 precincts reporting
Howard County Board of Education District 3
Jolene Mosley (Nonpartisan)
Tom Heffner (Nonpartisan)
Gian Alfeo (Nonpartisan)
3 of 4 precincts reporting
Howard County Board of Education District 4
Jen Mallo (Nonpartisan)
Sezin Palmer (Nonpartisan)
Kirsten Coombs (Nonpartisan)
Matt Levine (Nonpartisan)
Mike Sheer (Nonpartisan)
Daniel Margolis (Nonpartisan)
3 of 4 precincts reporting
Howard County Board of Education District 5
Yun Lu (Nonpartisan)
Cindy Vaillancourt (Nonpartisan)
Gene Ryan (Nonpartisan)
Saif Rehman (Nonpartisan)
3 of 4 precincts reporting

Recommended on Baltimore Sun