Absentee Ballots to Determine Outcome in Md.'s 1st District

Frank M. Kratovil Jr. had a slim lead Tuesday night.
Frank M. Kratovil Jr. had a slim lead Tuesday night. (Matthew S. Gunby - AP)
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By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 6, 2008

The bitterly fought race in Maryland's 1st Congressional District that pitted Democrat Frank M. Kratovil Jr. against Republican Andrew P. Harris will be decided by absentee ballot, state election officials said yesterday.

When the votes were tallied Tuesday night, Kratovil, the Queen Anne's County state's attorney, was ahead by fewer than 1,000 votes, of more than 329,000 cast. Election officials said they will begin counting 25,239 absentee ballots today.

Ross Goldstein, a spokesman for the Maryland State Board of Elections, said the race could be determined in a few days if a wider margin emerges and a candidate decides to concede. Otherwise, he said, it could take more than a week to obtain final results, and then there would be a chance of a recount.

Both campaigns expressed confidence yesterday about the outcome of the race, which captured national attention as a test of Democratic momentum.

"We're confident that Andy will be the next congressman, and at this point, we're just waiting for the final results," said Chris Meekins, a spokesman for Harris, who is a three-term state senator from Baltimore County.

Kratovil spokesman Kevin Lawlor said the Democrats thought the race would be tight, even though "our opponent thought he'd walk away with it."

Harris, an anesthesiologist, won February's Republican primary against nine-term incumbent Wayne T. Gilchrest. A GOP moderate, Gilchrest broke ranks with the party and endorsed Kratovil in the general election.

The 1st Congressional District includes the Eastern Shore and straddles the Chesapeake Bay to take in portions of Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties. Democrats slightly outnumber Republicans in the district, but it has routinely voted Republican.

Adam Hoffman, a political science professor at Salisbury University, said that if Harris loses, it will be because it "was a poor time to be a Republican." He also said Democrat Barack Obama's presidential campaign might have helped Kratovil by bringing out a higher-than-normal number of African American voters on the Eastern Shore.

Lawlor said the campaign is waiting patiently for the outcome.

"There's not much more to be done but to make sure all the votes are counted," he said. "We just hope to see the same trend we saw with the other voting."

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