MARYLAND

Cardin, O'Malley Win in Statewide Democratic Wave

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D), who is running for U.S. Senate, makes the rounds outside the polling place in Leisure World in Silver Spring. In exit polls, nearly two-thirds of Cardin supporters said they were casting their vote to send a message to President Bush.
Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D), who is running for U.S. Senate, makes the rounds outside the polling place in Leisure World in Silver Spring. In exit polls, nearly two-thirds of Cardin supporters said they were casting their vote to send a message to President Bush. (By Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)

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By Matthew Mosk and John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Maryland Democrats swept to victory in the major statewide races last night, as voters showed a deep unease about the direction of the country and a strong urge to return the state to its long tradition of Democratic leadership.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley was elected the state's 61st governor, and veteran congressman Benjamin L. Cardin won a hard-fought race for U.S. Senate. Both were carried into office by a surge in turnout, including a robust showing from African Americans, widely viewed as the most pivotal Election Day voting bloc.

"For the working families of Maryland, it is time to move Maryland forward again!" O'Malley, 43, said shortly after midnight, after long minutes of deafening cheers from supporters.

Crowds at voting sites slowed election returns, and more than three hours after polls were scheduled to close, long lines of voters in Prince George's County still waited to cast ballots -- delays apparently due to a shortage of machines, not problems with the technology. The two major Republican candidates said those delays allowed enough doubt for them to wait before conceding.

"We're going to overtime," Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. told supporters in an eight-minute speech made shortly after midnight. He advised them to "stay tuned" as absentee and provisional ballots are counted over the next several days.

But large swaths of the uncounted ballots came from the Democratic strongholds of Montgomery and Prince George's counties and Baltimore, leaving it all but certain that Ehrlich would be the first incumbent since 1951 to be unseated after one term.

Republican Senate candidate Michael S. Steele also pleaded for patience from his backers, but returns that had been counted last night suggested the affable lieutenant governor had made only narrow inroads with the voters he tried hardest to persuade, African Americans. Exit polls showed blacks voted for Cardin by a 3 to 1 ratio.

Across the board, Democrats appeared headed for victory. Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler easily prevailed in the race for attorney general, and Montgomery Del. Peter Franchot won the job of comptroller, the state's chief tax collector. Montgomery swept in Isiah "Ike" Leggett as the county's first African American county executive, and Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson breezed to reelection.

Lawyer John Sarbanes (D), son of retiring Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.), won Cardin's 3rd District seat, defeating Republican John White. The rest of Maryland's congressional delegation won easy victories last night.

Even in key state legislative races, including five targeted by Republicans, Democrats came out ahead, and the party appeared to have gained at least one Senate seat in Howard County.

After more than a year of political jockeying, primary skirmishes, television ads, endorsements and massive turnout efforts, the outcome in Maryland appeared to boil down to one central fact: The state is home to nearly twice as many Democrats as Republicans.

In a year when Democrats have a brisk national gust at their backs, even an incumbent as popular as Ehrlich, in a state that's enjoying general economic well-being, appeared unlikely to return for a second term.


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