Branch looks like winner in 13th

The Baltimore Sun

Warren Branch lost three votes to incumbent Vernon E. Crider when dozens of absentee ballots were counted yesterday. But he still appears set to take the District 13 seat in the Baltimore City Council.

Branch led Crider by 48 votes with fewer than an estimated 100 provisional and absentee ballots left to be tallied next week. At the start of yesterday's count, Branch held a 51-vote lead over Crider. Of the 64 ballots tallied, Crider gained 18 votes, followed by Branch's 15. The other three candidates split the remaining 31 votes.

Election officials expect to receive some oversees ballots over the next few days and will check an unknown number of provisional ballots Monday. Provisional ballots are votes cast with question about the voter's eligibility.

Crider captured just 26 percent of the vote in Tuesday's Democratic primary election, and political observers say it is unlikely that he can pick up enough of the remaining votes to win.

He would need from half to 75 percent of those votes.

The 13th District in East Baltimore includes the McElderry Park, Berea and Ellwood Park/Monument neighborhoods.

Armstead B.C. Jones, the city elections director, said that under state law, 10 absentee ballots were held back yesterday and will be tallied in the final absentee ballot count next Friday. Four other absentee ballots were disallowed.

Crider, 43, replaced City Councilwoman Paula Johnson Branch on the council in April after she left to take a job in real estate.

"I thought the fog would clear a little bit more, but it seems like we're right back from where we started," Crider said. "I was looking for closure, but everything happens for a reason. I'd like to know what the reason is, but we won't know until we know."

Branch, 46, accompanied by his brother, state Del. Talmadge Branch, a Baltimore Democrat, said he didn't want to "jump for joy" because Crider failed to make up much ground but will instead cautiously wait for next week's results.

"I just want to wait and see the final count," Branch said. "There still is a ways to go. I believe the process is good and have no problem with the process. My days will still go on, and next week we'll see where it is."

Emmett Guyton remained in third place, 120 votes behind Branch. Guyton, though, complained to the elections board, alleging that hundreds of votes in two of the precincts were not counted. Guyton said the precincts, Bocek Playfield and Carroll Cook Recreation Center, were part of his base.

Guyton, 38, said he was told at 1 a.m. the morning after the vote by an elections official that those precincts had not been counted. He said the voting results have not changed since then.

Jones, the elections director, said he will investigate.

"When they say it's a wild ride in the 13th, it is," Guyton said.

No other parties are running candidates in the Nov. 6 general election. The 13th District remains the only district without a recognized winner of the Democratic primary.

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