Ken Ulman and Mary Kay Sigaty were left hanging late last night with the outcome too close to call in their fierce battle for the Democratic nomination for west Columbia's Howard County Council seat.
Unofficial District 4 results showed Ulman, a 28-year-old lawyer, ahead by 40 votes with several hundred absentee ballots left to count starting at 10 a.m. tomorrow.
"In my humble view, [the preliminary count] shows me not knowing [who won]," Sigaty said, noting that her campaign sent out 100 letters to people requesting absentee ballots, and her college-age daughter tried to recruit 100 friends to vote from their out-of-state colleges.
Said Ulman, "It's real close. ... We poured our hearts into this race. That means I can't sleep for two nights."
Ulman won endorsements from key Democrats, including County Executive James N. Robey, while raising and spending more than five times as much money as Sigaty, a 52-year-old activist with deep roots in the community.
The winner will face Republican Joan C. Lancos, who ran unopposed, Nov. 5. The incumbent, Mary C. Lorsung, is retiring.
Meanwhile, the outcome was uncertain in another tight council primary.
District 3 County Council candidate Diane Wilson appeared to beat Kirk Halpin by 58 votes for the Republican nomination, but refused to claim victory until fewer than 100 absentee ballots are counted.
A low, 27-percent Howard turnout in yesterday's primary election left Savage Mill partner Steven H. Adler as the Republican challenger to Robey in November, while voters chose David Rakes in a hotly contested District 2 (east Columbia) Democratic County Council race.
"I'm feeling really good. The nice thing was I won the primary pretty convincingly and we're using the same strategy in the general election," Adler said.
Clark J. Schoeffield, who mounted a vigorous but late campaign for the Republican county executive nod based on his feeling that growth is out of hand in Howard, said he was disappointed.
"The poor turnout was not good for us. We ran an excellent campaign and I'm proud of that," he said.
Said Robey, "I'm looking forward to running against Steve [Adler]. I assumed all along it would be him." The incumbent executive said he would begin running cable television advertisements in a few weeks.
"If [voters have] watched what we've done, they'll have a pretty good idea of what we'll do," he said.
Robey said he was surprised the turnout reached 27 percent, based on the few voters he saw at county polling places.
County police got two reports of stolen political yard signs yesterday on St. Johns Lane in Ellicott City, according to a spokeswoman
A polling place at the Savage library opened a half-hour late when no one came to unlock the building. The election went relatively smoothly otherwise, election board officials said.
And though few residents exercised their right to vote, some that did felt strongly about it.
Sean Stanley, a 23-year-old Libertarian, wasn't sure if there were any candidates on the ballot from his party, but he still voted "because we can." "If we don't [vote], it's a damn shame," said Stanley, a instructional technology specialist from West Friendship.
"This is why the planes flew into the buildings -- they wanted to destroy what we're doing here tonight, but they didn't succeed," said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Democrat who won the primary in his bid for re-election.
County Republicans will face an uphill fight to the general election, as Democrats close ranks to try to keep control of the executive's office and three of the five council seats.
Guzzone in key race
The key race may be between incumbent Councilman Guy J. Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat, and the Republican nominee -- be it Wilson or Halpin -- in District 3, though Guzzone rejects the notion that he's vulnerable.
Republicans held the seat, and the council majority, before Guzzone won it in 1998.
He feels confident of keeping his seat, he said, bolstered by 5,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in his district. It's the Republicans who may be vulnerable, he said.
"I think the Democrats have a better chance of winning District 1" than Republicans have of taking his District 3 seat, Guzzone said.
In District 1, which includes Ellicott City, Democrats outnumber Republicans by 1,000 voters, Guzzone said.
Despite that, "I feel secure," Christopher J. Merdon, the Republican incumbent, said yesterday. "I don't think anybody's thinking District 1 is going to the Democrats," he said, noting the GOP has held the seat for three terms, and there are 4,700 independent voters.
Lynne Bergling is the Democratic nominee.
Merdon's fellow Republican, Allan H. Kittleman, won his western county primary in District 5 against James Adams. He faces novice Stephen Musselman, an attorney, in the general election.
Republican Brian Harlin, who owns a business that manufactures campaign signs, will oppose David Rakes in the heavily Democratic east Columbia district now represented by C. Vernon Gray.
"I'm ecstatic and very excited. It was a hard fight and we have a great chance," Rakes said.