Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) won a resounding reelection victory yesterday, and emerged from the balloting with majority support on the County Council for building an east-west highway that was the controversial centerpoint of the campaign.
"We clearly have a majority for the intercounty connector," Duncan said. "We're going to be able to vote and get things built: roads, transit and trails."
The day was also marked by several historic breakthroughs, with the first Latino elected to the County Council, and the first African American and Latino voted to the General Assembly from Montgomery County.
Incumbents fared well in contests across the county, with only a few defeats. Those included Republican Del. Jean W. Roesser, who lost to Rob Garagiola (D) in District 15, and Republican council member Nancy H. Dacek, who was beaten in District 2. An opponent of the intercounty connector, Dacek was defeated by Democrat Mike Knapp, who favors the plan to help relieve traffic congestion by linking Interstates 95 and 270.
Democratic council members Steven Silverman and Michael L. Subin, along with Democratic newcomers Nancy Floreen and George L. Leventhal, all supporters of the connector road, won four at-large seats.
Democratic incumbent Phil Andrews, who opposes the highway proposal, was reelected in District 3. In District 1, Republican incumbent Howard Denis, who supports the connector, defeated Democratic challenger Duchy Trachtenberg.
Among the minority candidates scoring victories was Democrat Ana Sol Gutierrez, a Salvadoran American former school board member who ran unopposed in District 18 for a seat in Maryland's House of Delegates. She became the first Latino elected to represent the county in the General Assembly.
Tom Perez (D), a Dominican American civil rights lawyer and educator, won an open seat in County Council District 5, making him the first Hispanic ever to sit on the council.
At a celebration in Takoma Park, Perez said, "It's not just a victory for the Latino community, although it is an historic day for the Latino community, but it is a victory for the progressive movement in Montgomery County. We are a new force to be reckoned with.
"We built a coalition that cut across racial lines -- Latino, Asian American, African American, gays, Native Americans, people with disabilities who care about issues such as affordable housing, education and social services."
Gareth E. Murray, who was running for a delegate seat in District 20, became the county's first African American representative in the General Assembly. African Americans make up 15 percent of the population in the county.
Perez frequently spoke Spanish when wooing voters on the campaign trail, and his candidacy appeared to energize many Latino residents. About 50 percent of his district's registered Latino voters turned out to vote in the primary.
During the campaign, both Perez and Gutierrez stressed that despite their heritage, their aim is to represent constituents of all ethnicities. "I am a Latino, and I am proud to be a Latino," said Perez. "But I am also proud of my ability to reach out to all communities regardless of race and color."
Duncan hailed the success of minority candidates in the election, saying, "We need to do more, but it was a good election for the minorities in the county."
Democrats picked up three additional seats in the House of Delegates and two in the state Senate, and won all of the county's courthouse positions.
Suburban Maryland lawmakers are expected to be appointed to important positions in the General Assembly next year. For example, State Sen. Brian E. Frosh, who won reelection, is one of several local lawmakers under serious consideration to chair one of four standing Senate committees.
State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler (D), seeking a second term at a time when his involvement in the Washington area sniper case has brought him national attention, ran unopposed. Sheriff Raymond Michael Kight (D) also ran with no opposition, winning a fifth term.
All six sitting Montgomery circuit court judges up for election won as well, despite a rare bid by an outsider.
Judges are traditionally appointed by the governor and then are required to run for their full 15-year term in the next election. Challenger Tom Eldridge, a former county prosecutor, had argued that the process makes for a cozy "good ol' boy" network.
Two incumbents on the Board of Education won by large margins. Board President Reginald M. Felton faced Robyn Anne Traywick in District 5, while Patricia O'Neill was up against Kevin W. Schuyler in District 3.
Charles Haughey won an open at-Large seat and Gabe Romero captured an open seat in District 1.
Duncan had been widely expected to win his bid for a third term. His opponent, Eric Anderson, a business operations consultant who said he entered the race because it was time for "a Republican voice and Republican leadership," agreed with Duncan on the need for the intercounty connector.
But the County Council races were dominated by debate over the connector.
Duncan had aggressively promoted the connector this year as the cornerstone of a $1 billion transportation plan for the county. Opponents argued that the new road would only increase development, leading to further gridlock.