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Live blog: Maryland Primary Day 2010 night -- Committed volunteers, scant turnout

Christopher Dean Hopkins

Welcome to Election Day, when members of Maryland political parties will head to the polls to pick nominees for U.S. senator, U.S. representative, governor and an array of other state- and county-level positions. Keep an eye on the Maryland Politics blog throughout the day for the latest updates and scenes from the campaigns and polling places.

To see the thread of updates from this morning, click here

Top stories: Ehrlich, all statewide and congressional incumbents win; Kratovil will face Andy Harris; Mikulski ready for a fight; Brian Murphy confident of chances; no love for candidates at Leisure World

Let us know what you saw out there online, by e-mail, Twitter or photograph.

UPDATE 2:15 a.m.: The final tally from Montgomery's at-large council voting through early Wednesday are in, and just 3,880 votes separated incumbents George Leventhal and Duchy Trachtenberg for the fourth and final spot on the Democratic ticket heading into November.

Board of Elections spokeswoman Marjorie Roher said that 10,152 absentee ballots have been issued, and it's unclear how many will be returned.

"We already have 4,784 back," she said.

Absentee ballots postmarked Tuesday have until 10 a.m. Sept. 22 to arrive at the board; 1,751 provisional ballots were turned in and will be counted that day as well, Roher said.

Here are the standings as of Wednesday morning:

Marc Elrich: 45,008 (17.81 percent)
Hans Riemer: 38,437 (15.21 percent)
Nancy Floreen: 36,973 (14.63 percent)
George L. Leventhal: 36,385 (14.40 percent)

Duchy Trachtenberg: 32505 (12.86 percent)

Rebecca Wagner: 30552 (12.09 percent)
Jane de Winter: 14204 (5.62 percent)
Fred Evans: 10372 (4.10 percent)
Raj Narayanan: 8247 (3.26 percent)

-- Michael Laris

UPDATE 1:34 a.m.: Daneen Banks, deputy administrator of elections in Prince George's, said that the vote count was slower than planned because of some technical difficulties encountered by elections judges.

The judges were supposed to use modems to send in results electronically from each precinct, but many apparently were unable to do so and instead drove the data cards to the elections board in Upper Marlboro, where the results were being uploaded.

By 1 a.m., the county was reporting results from almost 50 percent of the 223 precincts, but there was no estimate about when the count would be completed

-- Miranda Spivack

UPDATE 12:06 a.m.: The result seemed clear at 11:17 p.m. in Gordon Biersch pub in Rockville. County Councilman George Leventhal wasn't declaring victory exactly, but he had a solid 22,238 votes with two-thirds of the county's precincts reporting.

"It certainly feels like I'm going back to the county council for another four years," he said, looking at the results on a laptop computer. His 15-year-old son and his wife were nearby, along with a dozen friends and supporters.

His youngest son, 11, lay with his head on the table, soundly asleep.

-- Donna St. George

UPDATE 11:54 p.m.: Rushern Baker, acknowledging that the count in the race for Prince George's county executive was not complete, nonetheless addressed the crowd at his celebration at Six Flags in Largo.

"I think the people have spoken. I think the message is loud and clear: Prince George's, it is time to make a good county great," Baker told his cheering supporters. With about 37 percent of the votes counted, Baker had 44 percent of the vote.

Michael Jackson, another candidate in the primary, has not conceded and has not arrived at his celebration headquarters.

But LaVonn Reedy Thomas, community outreach coordinator for the Baker campaign, said: "We're not claiming victory ... it seems that we are leading in our key districts and and we're just waiting for [more] polls to report."

-- Miranda Spivack

UPDATE 11:03 p.m.: State Sen. Andrew P. Harris has defeated businessman Rob Fisher in Maryland's 1st congressional district Republican primary, according to the Associated Press, setting up a rematch of the 2008 contest between Harris and Rep. Frank Kratovil (D).

Kratovil beat Harris by fewer than 3,000 votes in that contest, and Harris has been eager for another shot in the GOP-leaning 1st, which includes the Eastern Shore and some counties north and south of Baltimore along the Chesapeake Bay. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won the district by 19 points in the 2008 presidential race.

Both parties expect the Kratovil-Harris contest to be among the most competitive in the country in November.

-- Ben Pershing

UPDATE 10:58 p.m.: At an election party at Austin Grill in Rockville, State Sen. Jennie Forehand (D-District 17) gazed up at a giant screen showing a razor-tight margin with all but about eight precincts counted.

Forehand had 1,877 votes. Her opponent, Cheryl Kagan, was a single vote behind, at 1,876.

"Go Jennie, go Jennie!" someone yelled.

As everyone looked up at the screen, the lead widened.

Forehand had 2,123. Kagan had 2,058, a 65 vote margin -- with perhaps five precincts uncounted.

-- Donna St. George

UPDATE 10:39 p.m.: At 10:10 p.m. Dinah Leventhal could wait no longer. She cut the celebratory cake for her brother George, who was seeking his third term as an at-large member of the Montgomery County Council.

Her sons, ages 5 and 8, had to get to bed soon, and the returns were taking a long while.

Jesse passed out the cake, and his younger brother Isaac was a happy consumer. "Icing!!" he celebrated.

-- Donna St. George

UPDATE 10:07 p.m.: The mood was cautiously upbeat in the Rockville Town Center, where candidate Craig Rice gathered with supporters at Austin Grill, amid red, white and blue streamers and noisy bar chatter.

Early voting results showed Rice in the lead. A giant screen flashed new voting results.

"Here we go!" someone yelled at 9:30 pm.

With 14 precincts in, Rice was in front. "It's always nice to have a lead," he said. Still, he waited for solid numbers.

George Leventhal, gathering with suporters in at the Gordon Biersch Pub in Rockville Town Center, sipped a draft beer and said he felt upbeat about his prospects, but that along his Election Day travels he noticed that voters were not coming together around any particular issue.

"Not the budget, not the economy, not development, not jobs," he said. In the end, "I think it was a very low-interest election."

-- Donna St. George

UPDATE 9:05 p.m.: Based on early returns, the Associated Press is declaring Bob Ehrlich the winner of the Republican primary for Maryland Governor. Ehrlich, a former governor, defeated Sarah Palin-endorsed darkhorse candidate Brian Murphy. Ehrlich will face incumbent Gov. Martin O'Malley, who also was declared winner in his primary Tuesday night.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) and all eight of Maryland's incumbent U.S. House members also won their respective primaries Tuesday, according to the Associated Press's projections.

Mikulski defeated six Democratic challengers, while the Republican primary contest was not yet decided as of 9 p.m. Of the 11 GOP candidates, Queen Anne's County Commissioner Eric Wargotz and attorney Jim Rutledge were the two best-known and were jockeying for the lead in early returns.

Seven of the state's U.S. House members -- six Democrats and one Republican -- faced primaries, and all of them prevailed, according to the AP. That includes Rep. Donna Edwards (D), who beat back a challenge from state Del. Herman L. Edwards II (D) in the 4th district.

The lone House member to be unopposed Tuesday, Rep. Frank Kratovil (D), faces the most competitive general election contest in November, with state Sen. Andy Harris (R) favored to win the Republican nomination over businessman Rob Fisher in the 1st district.

-- Ben Pershing

UPDATE 8:50 p.m.: Waters Landing Elementary School closed up for the night in Germantown with 292 ballots cast -- in a precinct with 3626 registered voters.

Bill Buslee, a fiftysomething insurance executive who was one of the day's final voters, was appalled by the turnout.

"I'm just shocked and disappointed," he said. "I can't believe, in this day and age, with everything we're facing, that people are so lackadaisical."

Outside the school was Sharon Dooley, a council candidate for the Germantown area. She had put 150 miles on her Highlander hybrid, stopped at 30 polling places, and was hoping for the best when the ballots were counted.

The low turnout was because there was no major candidate on the ballot, she said.

"I'm just hoping my people came out," she said.

-- Donna St. George

UPDATE 8:33 p.m.: The early voting results are in for Montgomery County, and several County Council incumbents are in the lead. But the 7,581 ballots cast in Maryland's experiment with early voting are just a fraction of what's to come when Tuesday's votes are counted. Still, it's interesting to see what some of the most committed voters had to say:

At Large county council races (pick four)
Marc Elrich: 3496 (17.30%)
Nancy Floreen: 3097 (15.32%)
George L. Leventhal: 3048 (15.08%)
Hans Riemer: 2934 (14.52%)
Duchy Trachtenberg: 2777 (13.74%)
Rebecca Wagner: 2230 (11.03%)
Jane de Winter: 1128 (5.58%)
Fred Evans: 864 (4.28%)
Raj Narayanan: 636 (3.15%)

Council District 1:
Roger Berliner: 510 (71.23%)
Ilaya Hopkins: 206 (28.77%)

Council District 2
Craig L. Rice: 485 (52.60%)
Royce Hanson: 239 (25.92%)
Sharon Dooley: 151 (16.38%)
Charles Kirchman: 34 (3.69%)
Eddie Kuhlman: 13 (1.41%)

-- Michael Laris

UPDATE 8:14 p.m.: Chief judges Joyce Reid and Alberta Taylor steered late voters to open machines at the far end of the Valley View Elementary School polling station as they prepared to shut down for the evening.

Reid, a first-time judge at this location who had about five years of chief judge experience elsewhere was surprised that people were able to find the school, which is nestled atop a hill and deep in a residential community.

Besting other nearby polling locations that had turnouts somewhere between 100-200, Valley View saw 378 voters with more rolling in around 7:30 p.m.

Reid, a social worker for the Prince George's Department of Social Services said she volunteers because she "loves working with my community," but cocked an eyebrow and peered over her black-frame glasses when asked if she'd be attending any candidate parties once the polls close.

"I have been here since 5:30 a.m.," she said, pushing her blonde 'locks away from her face. "I'm going home to get a hot bath and a stiff drink, if you really want to know the truth."

-- Akeya Dickson

UPDATE 8:07 p.m.: By the 11th hour at the polls, Samara Davis' grandfather was pretty pooped.

He sat on his folding chair on a grassy lawn outside Kettering Bapitst Church while 10-year-old Davis ran over to voters as they shut their car doors, making their way into the polls before 8 p.m.

"I've been here since 6:30 [a.m.]," said a smiling Davis, wearing flip-flops, shorts and a red T-shirt with her mother's name, Sonatta Camara, emblazed on the front. "I'll be here until 8." Camara is running for the county Democratic Central Committee.

Davis said she's a pro at passing out literature for her mother, who distributes flyers for a day care and real estate business. "This is my first time for an election, but I always pass out literature," she said.

Another young boy helping Muhammed Camara, Davis' grandfather, at the polls took a seat next to Camara and said: "It's been slow."

Then Davis quickly pulled the boy by the arm as she spotting someone in front of the church.

"Let's go, I think I see some people," she said.

-- Ovetta Wiggins

UPDATE 7:51 p.m.: Heidi Humphrey, 37, was a voter clearly in search of change. "And not Obama's change," she said.

She was at the polls 45 minutes before closing -- determined to vote against a few incumbents and all candidates who had sent her too many campaign flyers in the mail.

Humphrey described herself as a constitutionalist who liked the Tea Party movement until Glenn Beck emerged on the scene.

Now she said she would vote against council candidate Craig Rice, who had papered her mailbox with 10 separate mailings.

"Those that can afford to over-pamphlet already have too much money ... and they are not going to be candidates who listen to the people," she said.

-- Donna St. George

UPDATE 7:36 p.m.: Gwendolyn Jones, Democratic chief judge at the John Hanson Montessori School in Oxon Hill, said she usually sees about 10 residents from her neighborhood come out to vote during primary elections.

"I've only seen one today, but they have until 8 o'clock," said the retired personnel management specialist, who has volunteered during election season for the past 15 years.

Morning was busier than lunchtime at the polling location, Jones said, but leading up to 6 p.m., voter turnout hovered somewhere around 156.

Not surprised by the low turnout, Jones said that general and presidential elections always see more foot traffic.

"Also, early voting is very advantageous for those who have to work early, go to 12-hour shifts, and for seniors," she said. "I've been here since before 6 o'clock, and if my mother hadn't worked early I would have had to make transportation arrangements for her."

-- Akeya Dickson

UPDATE 7:27 p.m.: It was 6:40 in Germantown, and County Councilman Mike Knapp was visiting his 17th or 18th polling place of the day. This one had 16 voting machines -- and exactly seven voters were in the room for the after-work rush.

"A couple of people checking in and a couple of people voting," a typical scene from this Election Day, he said.

At Kingsview Middle School, a precinct with 4,300 registered voters, officials had counted 384 ballots with just 80 minutes until the polls closed. Knapp said his sense was that voters were anxious about economic issues close to home -- and did not feel the election was connected to their concerns.

"I don't think there's a single or galvanizing issue in the campaign," he said.

-- Donna St. George

UPDATE 7:21 p.m.: Prince George's Community College student Ryan Data, 18, spent the past 12 hours getting to know fellow campaigners for Del. Kriselda "Kris" Valderrama (D-District 26) as they sat in a circle on folding chairs at the entrance of the John Hanson Montessori School.

Flanked by McDonough High School senior Ray Valientia, 17, and Oxon Hill High School senior Donel Lopez, 19, the trio sporting mustard yellow t-shirts were among the youngest at the polling station.

"Other young people could have had their parents drop them off to campaign," said Data.

Data signed up to campaign because Valderrama is a family friend, while Valientia and Lopez came out for the community service hours. They noticed low turnout but were surprised to hear that it was as low as 5 percent earlier in the day.

"Five percent of voters turning out means 5 percent of the people here care," said Data.

-- Akeya Dickson

UPDATE 7:05 p.m.: Daffinie Winfrey, 47, had spent the morning reminding her coworkers at Geico that it was important to vote. Few people seemed highly motivated.

Her pitch: "You didn't just wake up having this vote. Somebody got chased by dogs or water hoses or abused so you could do this. Black people and women didn't just get the right."

Wednesday morning she will see who was persuaded. Tuesday night she joined her brother, James, 45, at the polls in Germantown shortly after 6 p.m.

Neither of them was very excited by the races they were helping to decide. They reminisced about the thrill they felt during the 2008 presidential election.

"Doing my civic duty," said Daffinie.

Her brother agreed.

-- Donna St. George

UPDATE 6:26 p.m. John DiNardo, 50, was heading to his Germantown polling place just before 6 p.m. with some decisions made -- and others unsettled.

He would be voting for Craig Rice in the sole Montgomery County Council race with no incumbent. Rice, he said, "has some experience at the state level, he's young and he's a Germantown resident." He noted that, until recently, "upcounty has been pretty much neglected on the political front."

But for the council's at-large seats, he was a little more up in the air. He was inclined to support one of the challengers -- Becky Wagner or Hans Riemer.

"I like to see a fresh face in there to challenge the status quo," he said.

-- Donna St. George

UPDATE 5:57 p.m. On the morning of a strikingly quiet Maryland primary, Lauren Miller, a 30-something project manager for a biotech company, woke up in Germantown forgetting it was Election Day. She was reminded as she listened to the radio on her way to work, and at 5:30 p.m. she was at Kingsview Middle School with a post-it note detailing her choices.

One was Royce Hanson, in a race against Craig Rice for the sole open seat on the Montgomery County Council. Miller had researched both candidates online and decided Hanson was best.

"I want someone in Montgomery County who's going to protect green spaces and our agricultural history," she said.

-- Donna St. George

UPDATE 4:47 p.m.: Two leading candidates for county executive in Prince George's county crossed paths at the last minute on the campaign trail this morning. At about 9 a.m. Michael Jackson and Rushern Baker both made appearances at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt.

"Michael was being interviewed when we arrived, so we rode up a little way so we wouldn't be in the way," said LaVonn Reedy Thomas, community outreach coordinator for the Baker campaign. "Then Rushern did interviews with two other reporters. I don't think they even got a chance to speak to each other."

-- Avis Thomas-Lester

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  | September 14, 2010; 11:03 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Elections, Ben Pershing, Governor, John Wagner, Michael Laris, Miranda Spivack, Montgomery County, Prince George's County  
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