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One Howard school board member, five challengers advance past primary

2 of 3 #HoCoBOE incumbents knocked out of race

Howard County Board of Education members Ellen Flynn Giles and Ann De Lacy have lost their bids for reelection, according to unofficial primary results from the state's board of elections.

Giles has served on the board since 2004 and De Lacy, since 2012.

With all early ballots and Election Day votes counted, Kirsten Coombs, Christina Delmont-Small, Mavis Ellis, Janet Siddiqui, Vicky Cutroneo and Robert Miller remain the top six vote-getters, and will advance to the Nov. 8 general election to compete for three seats on the school board.

Siddiqui was the only incumbent to receive enough votes to move past Tuesday's primary.

The final vote counts were slow to be revealed Tuesday night. Howard County Board of Elections Director Guy Mickley said the state's page for live results from Howard County's primary crashed around midnight Tuesday, and was not properly updating voting counts. He has since removed that link from the county's Board of Elections webpage.

The Maryland Board of Elections page for unofficial election counts is correct, Mickley said, and absentee and provisional votes will be counted on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Celebrating with her supporters and fellow candidates at Iron Bridge Wine Company on Route 108, Coombs, who received 34,200 or 17.6 percent of the votes, said about the board, "When I'm there in December, I will vote for the superintendent not sitting next to the chair. So that she won't influence the chair."

Corey Andrews, who was neck and neck with Miller for much of Tuesday night, recalled filing to run on the day the board voted to renew Superintendent Renee Foose's contract. Many parents and elected officials criticized the board's decision and the way the board conducted the vote, citing concerns with Foose's leadership.

"That put me over the edge," said Andrews, 21, youngest and third time school board candidate.

"With two challengers on the board," he added, referring to Delmont-Small and Coombs, "the superintendent could take a buyout."

Voters and campaigners at multiple polling locations in Howard County Tuesday noted heightened public interest in this year's Board of Education primary. Residents were allowed to vote for three of the 11 candidates in the non-partisan race.

"I moved to Howard County in 1982 and I have never, ever before been in the grocery line and heard people behind me talking about the Board of Education race," said Teri Dennison, treasurer for the Howard County Educators Association, on a break from speaking to voters at Centennial Lane Elementary School in Ellicott City. "And they were people who wouldn't normally be interested."

Criticism of the current Howard County board has grown in recent months, along with a movement to replace the three members running for new terms this cycle.

"The buzz is over anyone but the incumbents," said Howard County Councilwoman and Democrat Jen Terrasa, who was talking to primary voters outside Hammond High School Tuesday.

Critics of the school system, including parents, educators and several of the county's representatives to the General Assembly, allege that current school board members and the superintendent have ignored community input and hidden information from the public. This month the state legislature approved an audit of the school system's refusals to fulfill public information requests.

Giles, De Lacy and Siddiqui have rejected such criticism.

"I like what we're doing," De Lacy said while campaigning at Harpers Choice Middle School in Columbia Tuesday morning. "I love our superintendent. She has a vision and a mission and we have to look at what is right for our students. That's what we're doing."

Many of the eight challengers running for the Board of Education have publicly criticized Foose and current school board members, and pledged to return accountability and transparency to the Board of Education.

"We're very fortunate that this is an election year, because, as citizens and parents and everybody else, we have an opportunity to have our voices heard in the ultimate way," said Delmont-Small, former president of the PTA Council of Howard County. "Which is voting for a Board of Education that is going to return the voices of the parents, the community, the educators back to the Board of Education, and do what's right for the children of Howard County."

The Howard County Education Association, which represents nearly 5,000 of the county's educators, sent 170 volunteers out to Howard County's 100-plus polling places to advocate for its recommended candidates — Coombs, Delmont-Small and Ellis, all of whom will advance to the general election.

"It's time to turn the page on the current board, and elect one that listens to educators and community members," said Association president Paul Lemle.

David Loeffler, who was campaigning for Giles outside of Harpers Choice Middle Tuesday morning, takes issue with that approach.

"I'm just sort of battling the anti-incumbent movement that's going on right now," he said. "I just think they've done a great job. There's room for improvement, of course, but I don't want a bunch of new people coming in who don't know what they're doing. You always take a step back when you have that happen."

With 110 precincts reporting, 78,162 voters, or about 38.3 percent of eligible Howard County residents had cast ballots, as reported on the county election board's website. More than 204,000 Howard County residents are currently eligible and active voters.

Numbers released by the state election office showed that 9 percent of Howard County residents, or about 18,000 people, voted early.

Mickley, the Board of Elections director, said that election day voting went smoothly, given the use of a new voting system. Since the last election, the state scrapped its old touch-screen machines and replaced them with paper ballots tallied by optical scanning machines.

"The learning curve was almost nonexistent," Mickley said.

Statewide, a dozen or so scanners malfunctioned and some polling places in Baltimore opened late, but state election officials reported few glitches during voting Tuesday.

Nikki Baines Charlson, deputy director of the State Board of Elections, reported that as of early Tuesday evening, the state board had received no reports of long lines, even though voters faced a new election system.

The state board received reports that 12 to 15 scanners malfunctioned, out of 4,000 across the state, but Charlson said they were replaced quickly.

Final turnout numbers were not available Tuesday night, but it is possible that some of the Election Day traffic was eased by the increased popularity of early voting in Maryland. More than 257,000 Marylanders, or 7.5 percent of eligible voters, took advantage of early voting this year. That compares with 4.2 percent in the gubernatorial primary of 2014.

Andrew Michaels, Fatimah Waseem and Baltimore Sun staff contributed to this story.

The story has been updated to reflect the latest voting results and to correct the number of volunteers the Howard County Education Association sent to the polls Tuesday.

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