The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

David Blair files for recount in primary for Montgomery County executive

Left: Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D). (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post). Right: David Blair, a Democratic primary candidate for Montgomery County executive. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post) (From left: Sarah L. Voisin; Katherine Frey//The Washington Post)

Potomac businessman David Blair on Tuesday filed a request for a recount in his Democratic primary race against incumbent Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich.

Elrich held a 35-vote lead when Montgomery County election workers certified results in the race Saturday afternoon after nearly a month of canvassing, tabulating and auditing ballots.

Blair’s petition with the county is the latest development in the closely watched, well-funded and fierce rematch between Blair and Elrich. The two men previously went toe-to-toe in the 2018 primary. Elrich won that election by 77 votes, going on to win the general election for his first term leading Maryland’s most populous county.

The winner of this year’s nomination will face Republican Reardon Sullivan in November, although in this deep-blue county, the winner of the Democratic nomination typically wins the general election.

Blair’s petition opts for a manual recount of the more than 140,000 votes cast in the race.

A losing candidate has until three days after local certification of the results to file a petition for a recount, according to Maryland state law. Montgomery County Board of Elections spokesman Gilberto Zelaya said the recount is scheduled to begin on Friday and run through the weekend. He said the first day of counting will likely set the pace of how many ballots election staff can recount in a day, and officials will have a better sense of the timeline then.

Under Maryland law, the state will conduct the recount at no cost to the candidate if the margin between the two candidates is 0.25 percentage points or fewer. Elrich is up by 0.03 percentage points — well within the margin for a state-funded recount.

Blair filed for a partial recount in the 2018 race because the margin of the race did not fall under the threshold for a state-funded recount. At the time, the threshold was set at 0.1 percent; the Maryland State General Assembly changed the threshold earlier this year to 0.25 percent.

After the recount in 2018, Blair had gained two votes.

Last week, the Montgomery County Board of Elections decided to delay certification by one day after officials discovered 102 uncounted provisional ballots. One ballot was rejected by the board, and officials counted the 101 remaining ballots Saturday morning.

Before the ballots were discovered, Elrich led by 42 votes and claimed victory. Blair gained seven votes with the additional ballots, narrowing the margin to 35 votes.