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Some front-runners pull away in Howard County school board races; other local primary contests too early to call

The Howard County Board of Elections counted about 23,000 more ballots on Thursday, and three Board of Education candidates extended their leads and are poised to move on to the general election in November.

Antonia Barkley Watts in District 2 and Jolene Mosley and Tom Heffner in District 3 all have insurmountable leads and are likely to compete for the lone spot on the school board in their respective districts. The District 1 race was decided before the primary due to only two candidates running for the seat, while the races for the second spot in District 2 and both spots in districts 4 and 5 are still to be determined.

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As of 1 p.m. Friday, at least 58,000 ballots cast by voters registered with a party had been counted. On top of the approximately 1,500 in-person voters on Tuesday, at least 56,000 of the nearly 72,000 mail ballots from voters registered with a party had been counted. That means at least another 15,000 ballots are to be counted, as well as ballots received by mail after Thursday — with a postmark of June 2 or earlier — and the nearly 3,500 absentee ballots the elections office has received.

Almost 8,000 more 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.

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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. This includes District 1 candidates Matthew Molyett and incumbent Christina Delmont-Small, who automatically advanced to the general as the only two candidates in their district.

Watts currently leads the way in District 2 with 54.5% of the vote, placing her ahead of Larry Pretlow II (22.9%) and James Cecil (22.6%). Pretlow and Cecil will likely have to wait until every ballot is counted to learn who will move to the general election alongside Watts.

“It’s exciting,” Watts said Friday. “I’m not a politician by trade. I have a background in engineering and education, so this is my first time stepping into this. I wish my team could have celebrated in person. That would’ve been great, but it’s wonderful to know my message has reached so many people.”

In District 3, Mosley has an overwhelming lead with nearly 66% of the vote, while Heffner is in second with 26.4%. Both candidates are far ahead of Gian P. Alfeo, who withdrew from the race last month after sharing Islamaphobic posts on Facebook but is still on the ballot.

“It’s very touching to see the support that’s coming through,” Mosley said Friday. “I know I have so many people who were involved and worked in the community, but to see it aggregated into votes is touching.”

While the race in District 4 can’t be called yet, incumbent Jen Mallo and Sezin Palmer remain in the lead by similar percentages to Wednesday’s count. Mallo is in first at 33.2%, while Palmer is at 27.1%. If the numbers hold, Palmer would unseat incumbent Kirsten Coombs, who was seeking a second term after winning in 2016 and is sitting at 22.2%.

The most competitive race from top to bottom is District 5, as all four candidates have at least 14% of the vote. Yun Lu is in the lead at 37%, while Gene Ryan (24.2%), former school board member Cindy Vaillancourt (23.9%) and Saif Rehman (14.9%) are behind.

Race for Circuit Court judge tightens

In addition to the Board of Education primary, Howard County residents also voted for District 5 Circuit Court judge.

Among Republicans, John J. Kuchno, who was appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan and started his term in January 2019, leads the other three candidates — Z. Stephen Horvat, Stephen J. Musselman and Quincy L. Coleman — with 57.5% of the vote. Among Democrats, Coleman has a narrow lead with 35.9% of the vote, ahead of Kuchno’s 33.5%.

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.

On Wednesday, Kuchno was in the lead among both Republican and Democrat voters, meaning he would have been the only judge on the ticket in November. His lead among Republicans was large — which remained similar after Thursday’s updated count — but his advantage over Coleman with Democrats was a modest 5.4%.

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While Kuchno is poised to appear on the ballot due to his Republican support, he is no longer in a position to run uncontested in November like he would have been if Wednesday’s percentages held.

Howard BOE

Results of Howard County Board of Education primary
Howard County Board of Education District 2
Candidate
votes
Antonia Watts (Nonpartisan)
8,237
56%
Larry Pretlow, II (Nonpartisan)
3,317
22.6%
James Cecil (Nonpartisan)
3,147
21.4%
3 of 4 precincts reporting
Howard County Board of Education District 3
Candidate
votes
Jolene Mosley (Nonpartisan)
9,281
66%
Tom Heffner (Nonpartisan)
3,703
26.3%
Gian Alfeo (Nonpartisan)
1,079
7.7%
3 of 4 precincts reporting
Howard County Board of Education District 4
Candidate
votes
Jen Mallo (Nonpartisan)
Incumbent
5,672
33%
Sezin Palmer (Nonpartisan)
4,719
27.5%
Kirsten Coombs (Nonpartisan)
Incumbent
3,882
22.6%
Matt Levine (Nonpartisan)
1,899
11.1%
Mike Sheer (Nonpartisan)
533
3.1%
Daniel Margolis (Nonpartisan)
475
2.8%
3 of 4 precincts reporting
Howard County Board of Education District 5
Candidate
votes
Yun Lu (Nonpartisan)
6,126
36.9%
Cindy Vaillancourt (Nonpartisan)
3,907
23.5%
Gene Ryan (Nonpartisan)
3,841
23.1%
Saif Rehman (Nonpartisan)
2,743
16.5%
3 of 4 precincts reporting

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