Democrat Steve Johnson widened, by more than 100 votes, his lead over incumbent Republican Del. Glen Glass in the race for two seats in the Maryland House of Delegates from Harford County’s Legislative Subdistrict 34A, following a second post-election ballot canvass Wednesday afternoon.
A final count of absentee ballots is scheduled for Friday morning, but Glass concluded that the race is “pretty much over” after seeing the results from Wednesday’s canvass of more than 1,400 provisional and absentee ballots.
“It’s pretty much over — it’s just the way that it goes,” Glass said after the Harford County legislative delegation’s annual pre-session meeting, which was held at the Bel Air Library Thursday.
Members of the House and Senate delegations heard from representatives of multiple county agencies, municipal governments, labor unions and community organizations as they prepare for the January opening of the Maryland General Assembly’s 2019 session in Annapolis.
Glass, an Aberdeen resident, has served in Annapolis for two terms over eight years. His district covers all of southern Harford County along Route 40 from Havre de Grace to the Gunpowder River.
He was nervous but upbeat earlier in the day while observing the ballot counting at the Harford County Board of Elections office in Forest Hill.
“Either way, I still win, because if I won, I get four more years,” Glass said. “If I don’t win, I still have eight years of serving the wonderful people of District 34A.”
He was in third place, out of four candidates for two seats, when the polls closed on Election Day Nov. 6, about 25 votes behind Johnson. Glass’ colleague, Democratic Del. Mary Ann Lisanti, was in first with a comfortable lead.
The gap between Glass and Johnson narrowed to 19 votes after absentee ballots were counted Nov. 8, but it widened to 129 Wednesday, according to the unofficial results posted on the Harford elections website.
Lisanti remained in first with 13,489 votes, followed by 11,799 for Johnson and 11,670 for Glass. Republican candidate J.D. Russell is in fourth place with 9,572 votes.
If the results hold, the Democrats will pick up one legislative seat in Harford, giving them two of eight local seats. The party also picked up one seat on the County Council, with Democrat Andre Johnson defeating Republican Donna Blasdell for the District A seat that was open after incumbent Republican Mike Perrone ran unsuccessfully for county executive.
The race for the District 34 seat in the Maryland Senate remains tight. Incumbent Republican Sen. Robert Cassilly leads Democrat Mary-Dulany James, a former state legislator, by 259 votes, 24,371 to 24,112.
Incumbent Del. Susan McComas, a Republican, is well ahead in her race for the third House seat in District 34. McComas, who serves Bel Air and the surrounding areas in Subdistrict 34B, leads Democratic challenger Jeff Dinger, 12,482 votes to 6,654, according to election results.
“That’s the way the cookie crumbles,” an emotional Glass said as he hugged Lisanti and Republican Del. Kathy Szeliga, of Legislative District 7, after elections officials displayed the results.
Szeliga congratulated Glass, known for his quirky roadside waving activities, on his hard work and for running a good campaign.
Szeliga was re-elected to her seat, one of three House seats for District 7 serving eastern Baltimore County and western Harford. She came in first with 20,233 votes so far, followed by newcomer Lauren Arikan with 18,791 and incumbent Del. Rick Impallaria, who has 18,028 votes. All three are Republicans.
Glass, Lisanti and Szeliga joined their delegation colleagues for the pre-session meeting in Bel Air. Arikan was in the audience, along with her fellow newcomer Jason Gallion, who won his race for state senator, representing northern and central Harford and northwestern Cecil County in District 35.
Glass talked with Arikan after the meeting, telling her: “you’re going to do great, I’m really proud of you.”
Arikan, of Jarrettsville, has not held elected office before. She finished the GOP primary in June, which had 13 candidates seeking the nomination for District 7, among the top three.
She said Wednesday that she personally knocked on 6,423 doors during the campaign, a process that took nearly 1,000 hours. She said she and her husband went out to meet voters every day for a year.
“I just did it by touching people, talking to them, asking them what their needs were,” she said of her win.
District F race
The race for the District F seat on the Harford County Council also remains close after Wednesday’s canvass. Incumbent Republican Councilman Curtis Beulah leads Democratic challenger Wini Roche by 267 votes, 8,860 to 8,593.
Beulah maintained the lead he had on Election Day and after the first canvass, but it had narrowed from 301 last week to 267 on Wednesday.
Roche, a first-time candidate, attended the canvass and watched intently as workers reviewed each ballot.
“I have enjoyed the experience from the beginning,” Roche said. “I even love the drama here up to the last minute.”
She called the counting process “democracy at work.” She also noted the excitement of watching a ballot being opened and seeing a mark next to her name.
“I appreciate the opportunity to witness what happens first-hand,” Roche said. “I’m not sure if people realize all the work that goes into an election process on the side of the election officials.”
Provisional ballots made up the majority of ballots counted, according to elections officials. Provisionals are typically filled out by voters who visit a polling place and think they are eligible to vote, but are not listed in the records. A provisional ballot will count if election officials determine the voter is eligible to vote in Maryland, according to the State Board of Elections website.
Joppa resident Gordon Koerner, a Democratic candidate who came in fifth in the District 7 House race, watched the counting. He expressed concern that voters who use provisional ballots would pick candidates “at the top of the ticket,” but they might not vote in district races for state legislators or County Council since they are out of their district.
“They don’t get a vote because you’re in the wrong district,” he said.
Barbara Osborn Kreamer, who filed a complaint after the first canvass because she feels the layout of the count restricts public access, returned Wednesday.
The Aberdeen resident and Harford County Democratic Central Committee member stood in front of workers, watching as they reviewed ballots. An elections official admonished Kreamer when she tried to talk with the workers, though.
Kreamer said later that she wants the counting tables and those where members of the Board of Canvassers, who review individual ballots recommended for rejection, sit, to be shifted away from the walls so observers can watch the process from anywhere. She also wants cordons separating the public from the tables removed.
“I think it’s an artificial boundary that puts a chilling effect on the observing,” she said.
Kreamer said she received a response to her complaint, which she filed with the county elections office Nov. 8, from Acting Director Cynthia Allred indicating officials would take her complaint into consideration.
“As I look at this [layout] today, I don’t see any change,” she said.
Kreamer also took her concerns to the Democratic Central Committee, which approved a motion this week. Committee chair Denise Perry attended the count Wednesday.
“Our motion was to get guidance from the state [Democratic Party] regarding the configuration of the canvassing before we made a challenge,” Perry said.
She said she has reviewed state and local guidelines and said “it’s pretty much up to every county board” on how to set up a canvass.