When politicians say every vote counts, Delegate John S. Arnick knows what they mean. He survived the Democratic primary by just six votes, the Baltimore County elections board said yesterday.
The new tally, which reversed results that showed Mr. Arnick losing by 26 votes, included absentee ballots and the correction of an error made on election night. It put him ahead of Delegate Joseph J. "Sonny" Minnick for the third of three spots on the general-election ballot in the 7th District.
Doris J. Suter, administrator of the Board of Elections Supervisors, said the discrepancy was due to a mistake in returns reported to election headquarters in Parkville by Dundalk precincts.
"It was just a case of somebody, at the end of a 13-hour day, coming up with a wrong number," she said.
Mr. Arnick, the House majority leader, said a count by his volunteers Tuesday night had showed him winning the race. But he said he had waited for the absentee ballots to be counted before claiming victory.
"It's been a frustrating experience," said the Dundalk lawyer.
Mr. Arnick and Mr. Minnick each got 86 more votes in the count of absentee ballots, putting Mr. Arnick in third place, Mrs. Suter said.
With election night votes and absentee ballots counted, Mr. Arnick yesterday had 6,630 votes, to Mr. Minnick's 6,624, Mrs. Suter said. The top vote-getter in the district, Delegate Louis DePazzo, garnered 8,120 votes. Connie Galiazzo finished second with 6,752.
Mr. Minnick said he would wait until Monday -- when the voting machines are opened and the vote is certified by elections officials -- to decide whether he will ask for a recount.
Mr. Minnick, appointed to the House seat in 1988 to fill a vacancy, said yesterday that his volunteers reported election night numbers to him indicating that he had lost the race. But he too hoped absentee ballots might spell victory.
"I guess I just wasn't meant to be in politics. I'm just too nice a guy," said a subdued Mr. Minnick.
Mr. Arnick was first elected in 1966, lost in a 1978 Senate race and was re-elected to the House in 1982. He said he was probably hurt this time by sharing a ticket with County Council member Dale T. Volz, who lost by a better than 2-1 margin.
"People just voted against whoever he shared the ticket with," Mr. Arnick said.
Mr. Arnick has risen to a position of power in Annapolis, where he is viewed as one of Maryland's most influential legislators. As majority leader, he ranks second to House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. and is instrumental in moving legislation through the General Assembly.
He also is chairman of the Environmental Matters Committee, which makes him a key player in legislation affecting a wide range of issues.
Mr. Mitchell, a 20-year friend of Mr. Arnick, said he was happy to see him re-elected. "When a district or a county loses the chairman of a committee and a majority leader, they lose a lot," Mr. Mitchell said.