Despite a remarkably low turnout at the polls, Baltimore voters kept one veteran West Baltimore state senator in office, turned out another and sent the majority of their 36-member delegation back to Annapolis.
In the two key West Baltimore races, Sen. Clarence W. Blount of the 41st District trounced his opponent, the Rev. Wendell H. Phillips, by a ratio of 3-to-1, while in a closer race in the 40th District race, Delegate Ralph M. Hughes defeated veteran Sen. Troy Brailey. In another close Senate race, in Northeast Baltimore's 43rd District, Sen. John A. Pica Jr. ended with a razor-thin lead of 38 votes over newcomer Martin O'Malley, and the winner will probably be determined by the counting of absentee ballots.
City voters also elected three new members of the House of Delegates, all women: Carolyn Kryisak in the 46th, Delores G. Kelley in the 42nd and Salima Salima Siler Marriott in the 40th.
The victories last night were scored in the Democratic primary. Only Mr. Hughes, the winner in the Pica-O'Malley contest and legislators in four other districts will face a Republican opponent in the general election.
Less than a third of the city's 321,141 registered voters -- approximately 28 percent -- cast ballots yesterday, city election officials said.
"It's the lowest voter turnout in my memory, and I've been here 35 years," said Gene Raynor, the former Baltimore elections board chief who now heads the state board in Annapolis.
In his 20 years in the Senate, Mr. Blount, 69, had faced little-known opponents. This year, Mr. Phillips waged a spirited campaign, accusing Mr. Blount of living outside the 41st District and working too closely with powerful politicians. Mr. Blount, however, emphasized the rewards of being an insider -- the millions of dollars in state aid provided to Baltimore -- and outspent his challenger by a ratio of 3-to-1 to get the message across to voters.
As of Aug. 31, the Blount campaign had spent $101,555 to Mr. Phillips' $32,443.
Last night, even before the final vote was in, Mr. Blount was claiming victory.
"We thought it was over before it was over. The people have spoken. Our whole slate has won. I feel vindicated, and we're ready to serve the people," Mr. Blount said above the applause and cheers of campaign workers.
In that same district, two former members of the House of RTC Delegates, Walter R. Dean Jr. and Nathaniel T. Oaks, saw a chance to return to Annapolis by capitalizing on Delegate Samuel M. Parham's short time in office. But Mr. Parham, who was appointed to his seat only last year, retained his seat, finishing third behind his two ticket mates, Delegates Margaret H. Murphy and Frank D. Boston Jr. The three benefited from Mr. Blount's flush campaign treasury and his strong political ties, which stretched all the way to the governor's mansion.
In the 40th District, Mr. Hughes, a two-term delegate and author of a new state law aimed at preventing the sale of cheaply made guns, relied on a grass-roots efforts to retire Senator Brailey. It was a scrappy campaign in which Mr. Brailey, a former union leader and staunch supporter of organized labor, verbally wrestled with Mr. Hughes at campaign appearances.
Even though he was well ahead of his opponent last night with almost all of the votes counted, Mr. Hughes wasn't taking anything for granted.
"We feel pretty good about it," Mr. Hughes said early today, adding, "We're going to wait until we get 100 percent" of the vote in.
Mr. Hughes had joined forces with Delegate Howard "Pete" Rawlings, aproven vote-getter who won re-election easily. The Hughes-Rawlings ticket included a newcomer, Ms. Marriott, a Morgan State University professor who will replace Mr. Hughes in the House of Delegates. Delegate Tony E. Fulton, a first-term legislator who has been feuding with Mr. Rawlings, finished second in the crowded race.
In the hotly contested 43rd District Senate race, Mr. Pica had almost 300 workers on the street in his effort to beat Mr. O'Malley. But throughout the vote count last night, Mr. Pica never managed to pull soundly ahead of his opponent. The victor may be determined in the count of absentee ballots, which could take several days, Mr. O'Malley said.
"What this involves is keeping track and keeping a presence and making sure the votes come in and keeping our fingers crossed that those 160 absentee voters are our people," Mr. O'Malley said. "It may be seven to 10 days before they know."
In Northwest Baltimore, Delegate James W. Campbell of the 42nd District teamed up with Delegate Samuel I. "Sandy" Rosenberg to survive an aggressive challenge by Delores G. Kelley, the secretary of the state Democratic Party, who received the financial and political support of Sen. Barbara Hoffman. Mrs. Hoffman was unopposed.
With almost all of the precincts reporting, Mr. Rosenberg and Mr. Campbell won comfortably, and Ms. Kelley beat out her own running mate, Delegate David B. Shapiro.
In the 46th District, Delegates Cornell N. Dypski and Anthony M. DiPietro Jr. retained their seats, while Ms. Krysiak took the third slot.