Montgomery County Democrats held their traditional “Kiss and Make Up” unity party Thursday night at a ballroom in Bethesda, a chance to salve any lingering rancor from the primary before attention turns to November’s general election.
But this time, there was unfinished business — namely, who will be the next presumptive county executive in the liberal county, which hasn’t elected a Republican to the top post since the 1970s.
At-large council member Marc Elrich, whose concerns about overdevelopment resonated with voters, has a slight lead over businessman David Blair, a political neophyte who ran on a platform of attracting jobs and businesses to the county to buoy the tax base.
After the polls closed Tuesday night, Elrich was ahead by nearly 500 votes. After 3,292 Democratic absentee ballots were counted Thursday, the lead shrank to 269.
Friday's absentee count pushed Elrich's lead down further, to 149 votes. Provisional ballots will begin to be tallied on Thursday, followed by a second round of absentee ballot counting July 6. In other words, it is still either man's race.
“Wow! What a crazy race,” Blair, who had a long-planned conflict and was not at the unity event, said in a short prerecorded video that was played to some applause. “We won’t know the final results for a few weeks, but regardless, what’s most important is we come together.”
Elrich then took the stage to more robust cheers, thanking his supporters and saying he feels “pretty good.”
“I look forward to working with everybody who won, and I am looking forward to working with the people who lost,” he said, adding that the focus will have to be on defeating Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in November.
Unsuccessful candidates and victorious nominees for other offices also filled the room.
Montgomery’s local elections this year were characterized by a particularly large field of candidates, buoyed by term limits and the county’s new public campaign financing system.
In addition to the six who ran for county executive, 33 Democrats ran for four at-large seats, and every district council race had at least two Democrats vying for the spot.
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ben Jealous called the small daily newspaper “a great institution in our state” and asked for prayers that “justice is done,” while Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said “the horrific episode of gun violence” spoke to a need for “common-sense” changes to gun laws.