Cardin Far Ahead in Senate Primary; Leggett Has Big Lead in Montgomery

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, shown in Silver Spring, held an early lead over Democratic rival Kweisi Mfume.
Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, shown in Silver Spring, held an early lead over Democratic rival Kweisi Mfume. (By Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)
By Matthew Mosk and John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Maryland's Democratic primary voters gave Baltimore Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin a commanding lead over former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume last night in the race to be the party's candidate for U.S. Senate, but chaos at polling sites delayed final results for that and other key races.

In Montgomery County, Isiah "Ike" Leggett maintained a strong lead over Steven A. Silverman to become the party's nominee for county executive, even though hundreds, possibly thousands, of provisional ballots sat uncounted at election headquarters in Rockville.

And Montgomery State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler defeated Baltimore lawyer Stuart O. Simms to be the party's nominee for attorney general.

As returns trickled in, they showed a surprisingly close contest for Prince George's county executive, with incumbent Jack B. Johnson holding a slight lead over former state delegate Rushern L. Baker III with half of the votes counted. Johnson declared victory about 1 a.m., but Baker told supporters that he wasn't ready to concede.

Also tight was a race that became a referendum on the patriarch of Maryland politics, William Donald Schaefer, the 84-year-old comptroller and former governor, who was on the verge of seeing his five-decade career come to an abrupt end. His fate awaited returns in Montgomery, where rampant voting problems slowed a final count.

Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens and Montgomery Del. Peter Franchot both held leads over Schaefer at times yesterday. Last night, Franchot predicted the uncounted ballots in Montgomery could determine the outcome.

"It has been an exciting election day with lots of twists and turns," he said in a statement released early this morning. "This election will not be over until every vote is counted."

All morning, confusion reigned as outraged voters were turned back from voting sites in Montgomery County because an election worker failed to provide key cards needed to make the electronic voting machines functional.

The snags reportedly included voting machines with no power cords at one Baltimore precinct, provisional ballots issued only in Spanish at a Silver Spring site and poll workers who arrived hours late in Anne Arundel County. At Piney Branch Elementary School in Takoma Park, officials quickly ran out of paper ballots and began telling voters to use scraps of paper. The impediments to voting prompted legal challenges and resulted in court orders to extend voting by an hour in Montgomery County and Baltimore.

Those votes, as with many cast while machines were down, were recorded on provisional paper ballots that won't be counted until Monday. While Republicans had only a handful of contested races, Democrats who reached working voting machines encountered a primary ballot that included a new generation of candidates.

Veteran Democrat Rep. Albert R. Wynn faced a spirited challenge from Donna Edwards but maintained a solid lead. Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Steny H. Hoyer easily won their nominations.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and his Democratic competitor, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, ran unopposed yesterday -- the first time in years that neither party's nomination for governor was contested. Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) pulled out of the race in June.

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