Schaefer Is Trailing In Comptroller's Race

Janet S. Owens, who is running for Maryland comptroller, shares a laugh with Howard Stone, a Prince George's school board candidate, on primary day.
Janet S. Owens, who is running for Maryland comptroller, shares a laugh with Howard Stone, a Prince George's school board candidate, on primary day. (By Mark Gail -- The Washington Post)
By Steve Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler captured the Democratic nomination for Maryland attorney general in yesterday's primary, and William Donald Schaefer was trailing in a tight three-way race as Maryland Democrats decided whether to nominate the controversial political legend to another term as state comptroller.

In early results, Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens was narrowly leading Del. Peter Franchot (D-Montgomery) and Schaefer. By midnight, both Schaefer and Franchot had left their campaign gatherings with the outcome still uncertain.

"I'm ready for an outcome, and I think the voters are, too. I've heard there may be challenges, and I'm not interested in thinking about that right now," Owens said at a gathering with supporters at the Nautilus Diner in Crofton.

"I'm quietly confident," Franchot said before departing. He said that provisional ballots cast in Montgomery because of voting errors could tilt the race in his favor. "We may have to wait for the provisional figures, but every vote has got to be counted."

The Schaefer campaign gathering at an Italian restaurant in Baltimore ended quietly around midnight. Nobody ended up at the podium with signs and balloons. The restaurant closed, and campaign spokesman Laslo Boyd talked to reporters on the sidewalk. "I don't think it's a done deal yet. . . . There's still a lot of votes out there," he said.

But in the battle for the Democratic nomination to replace retiring J. Joseph Curran Jr. as attorney general, Gansler had received 57 percent of the vote compared with about 41 percent for Baltimore attorney Stuart Simms, with about half the precincts reporting. "The people of Maryland have spoken, and Stu Simms conceded the race to us tonight," Gansler said to about 50 cheering supporters at the Bethesda Hyatt shortly before midnight.

A little earlier, Simms appeared before a group of about 30 supporters to concede defeat. "The victory was won before the returns were even in. We believe the Democrat will be in the attorney general's office. . . . I think I moved the debate forward."

Gansler will compete in November with Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle, who ran unopposed for the Republican nomination.

Both the comptroller and the attorney general races were unusually lively, with each offering the prospect of change for the first time in many years.

In the attorney general race, Curran is stepping down after 20 years in office. The comptroller's office, to which only two people have been elected since 1959, featured a competitive race for the first time in the memory of most Marylanders.

Schaefer, 84, is one of the icons of Maryland politics after a half-century in public life, beginning with the Baltimore City Council in 1955, continuing through four highly popular terms as the city's mayor until 1987 and then two terms as governor ending in 1995. He won election as comptroller in 1998 after the death of longtime incumbent Louis L. Goldstein.

Early in the evening yesterday, a relaxed Schaefer was holding court at Dalesio's restaurant in Baltimore's Little Italy with about 50 supporters while waiting for results. "I never predict any election," he said, sitting in a corner as he greeted well-wishers.

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