Epstein retains GOP lead Comptroller race gap down to 175 votes as absentee count begins; Count to go into next week; Rival Mayberry draws within 30, falls back on Baltimore ballots


As election officials across Maryland began to count absentee ballots yesterday, Owings Mills accountant Larry M. Epstein maintained a thin lead in the race for the Republican nomination for state comptroller.

Epstein, the party's 1990 nominee for the post, led rival Timothy R. Mayberry by 175 votes, according to figures provided by election officials. With hundreds of absentee ballots yet to be tallied -- including some that are not scheduled to be counted until next week -- the outcome of the race remained in doubt yesterday.

"I wouldn't be surprised if it went to me or Tim at this point," Epstein said last night. "Whoever ends up winning, I'd like it to be 250 votes apart to make it feel like there's a real mandate there, if you can call it that."

As of last night, Epstein had collected 42,366 votes to Mayberry's 42,191, according to figures provided by state and local election officials. The winner of the Republican primary will face former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who easily won the Democratic nomination.

Epstein had led Mayberry, a Washington County banker who was the party's 1994 nominee for comptroller, by 295 votes after ballots were tallied on election night. As absentee ballots were counted yesterday in some Eastern Shore counties and in Frederick County, Mayberry moved at one point to within 30 votes of Epstein.

Mayberry, who won 83 percent of the election night vote in his home county, gained more than 200 votes on Epstein when absentee ballots were counted there yesterday. But Epstein more than wiped out that gain with a 458-vote edge in absentee ballots in Baltimore County and Baltimore. He had also run strongly in those areas on election night, claiming 56 percent of the vote.

Michael Steele, a lawyer from Prince George's County who had been endorsed by Republican gubernatorial nominee Ellen R. Sauerbrey, appears almost certain to finish third among the six candidates for the nomination. Although he remained mathematically alive pending the counting of absentee ballots, Steele acknowledged Wednesday that he had lost the race.

The latest figures available from election officials included counts of absentee ballots from 17 of the state's 23 counties. Among those counties that had not reported their totals were Anne Arundel and Montgomery. Baltimore City election officials were expected to provide more votes in the race when they resume their count this morning.

Election officials in Prince George's County were not scheduled to begin counting absentee ballots until Monday. That county accounts for 482 of the 7,800 absentee ballots that were distributed to registered Republicans.

Pub Date: 9/18/98

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