Five takeaways from Carroll County’s 2018 midterm election results

Here are five takeaways from an eventful Election Day.

Maria Oesterreicher makes history

Tuesday night, Maria Oesterreicher became the first woman to earn a seat on the bench of the Carroll County Circuit Court, either by appointment or election.

She strode past sitting judge Richard Titus with 53.1 percent of the vote versus his 46.6 percent, a margin of 3,891 votes.

The last time a Maryland circuit court judge was defeated in the general election was in 2014 when Frederick County Judge Danny B. O’Connor lost to Scott Rolle, said Deputy Director, Research and Outreach, for the Maryland State Archives Jennifer Hafner Abbott.

In Oesterreicher’s campaign, she criticized the lack of diversity in the court and said it also affects the diversity of the family law magistrates who are appointed by those judges.

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“You shouldn’t vote for me just because I’m a woman,” she wrote in her candidate profile for the Times. “Vote for me because you want to see a more diverse bench and you believe that my qualifications and my perspective are needed on the Circuit Court for Carroll County.

Oesterreicher served as senior assistant state’s attorney in the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office for 14 years and is now employed by the Maryland Department of Human Services.

Success in flipping Board of Education

After calls to #FlipTheBoard rang out across social media in recent months, the voters of Carroll County spoke Tuesday night, voting in three new faces onto the Board of Education and voting out the only incumbent seeking re-election.

Former elementary school principal Patricia Ann Dorsey came out on top with 33,761 votes, or 23.1 percent.

Tara Battaglia, a parent and community activist who was very vocal and fought against the closure of the former Charles Carroll Elementary School, pulled ahead to second with 24,833 votes, or 17 percent.

The final new member of the school board is Ken Kiler, an executive at a construction company and founder of the Manchester Wrestling program, who had 24,237 votes, or 16.6 percent.

While current Board of Education President Bob Lord was second in the primaries, he finished last after Tuesday’s election with 19,979 votes, or 13.7 percent.

And current Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, the only other candidate currently holding office, albeit a different office, came in fifth, with 20,473 votes, or 14 percent.

District 9 Senate race a toss-up

Maryland’s 9th Legislative District covers mostly Howard County, but also a sliver of southwestern Carroll. It could see a new representative in the state Senate if Tuesday night’s results hold up after provisional and absentee ballots are counted.

Democrat Katie Fry Hester edged incumbent Republican Sen. Gail H. Bates by 154 votes. Hester garnered 31,174 votes to Bates’ 31,020 overall.

Bates outpaced her Democratic foe by 2,875 votes on the smaller Carroll County portion of the district. But Hester topped the Republican incumbent by 3,029 in Howard.

Absentee and provisional ballots remain to be counted. The first absentee ballot canvass is Thursday. On Nov. 14, provisional ballots will be counted, and a second absentee canvass will occur Nov. 16.

Those outstanding ballots may solidify Hester’s win, tighten the race or flip the current results. It’s unclear whether a recount will be needed.

Opioid funding, charter government on tap for commissioners?

With Republicans Stephen Wantz, Richard Weaver, Dennis Frazier, Christopher “Eric” Bouchat and Ed Rothstein elected for Carroll County Board of Commissioners seats, once the new board is seated, the issues of addressing the opioid epidemic and charter government may quickly take center stage.

For both Frazier and Bouchat, who won contested races Tuesday, the problem with opiates hits close to home.

Frazier has supported the commissioners’ Not in Carroll initiative, which has set aside funding for various county departments to provide resources for opiate abuse prevention and treatment — and has mentioned he wants to do more to help people get recovery help as soon as possible after overdosing instead of making them wait.

“If you get out of rehab and you go back to the environment you were taking the drugs in, within a week or 10 days or so what do you think is going to happen?” he asked at the Oct. 10 commissioner candidate forum. “Of course you will relapse.”

And Bouchat, who lost his daughter to a fentanyl overdose in February 2016, wants to increase efforts to help Carroll battle the epidemic as well.

“This issue is going to need help from everybody,” he said at the forum. “As commissioners, we are in charge of the budget and allocating county resources, but all we can do is sit and listen to all the professionals out there and implement the resources they need to support their programs.

“I know parents who have children who are addicts who cannot admit their child is an addict,” Bouchat continued. “We cannot live in the shame of addiction; we must all be honest. We have a problem with opioids in our community — and it starts with families.”

Bouchat also made charter government a large part of his campaign, making a point to mention it multiple times in the same candidate forum. At the Oct. 10 forum Bouchat said he believed until a charter government is in place, economic development will be hindered.

“We will be far more efficient in attracting businesses,” Bouchat said. “We need a county council and county executive so we can have a board instead of this haphazard system we have that isn’t working.”

At that same forum, Frazier said he would support switching from five commissioners to a charter government as well.

“If you’ve been following me at all,” Frazier said, “I pushed for charter government for this board. I believe, as Mr. Bouchat has mentioned, we need charter government in this county. We are more responsive to businesses that way, if you're looking at running the county as a business.”

Republicans still rule in Carroll

In local partisan races, Carroll County overwhelmingly supported Republican candidates and incumbents. This wasn’t a huge surprise when considering registered Republicans outnumber Democrats approximately 2-1 in Carroll, but local Democrats were optimistic with a few fresh, left-of-center faces running and national talk of a “blue wave.”

In two contested commissioners’ races, the state delegate race in District 5 and judicial races for clerk of the Circuit Court and judge of the Orphans’ Court, Republicans cruised to victory.

Carroll County Times reporters Emily Chappell, Alex Mann, Catalina Righter and Jennifer Turiano contributed to this report.

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