Absentee Ballots Alter Tight Margins, But Not Outcomes

Michaelson Relieved By 20-vote Win Over Serabian

September 16, 1990|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

In a hotly contested primary race ultimately decided by absentee ballots, Ernest C. Michaelson squeaked past Michael J. Serabian by 20 votes to become the GOP's nominee for the District 2 County Council seat.

With the sheriff's race, several legislative races and the District 2 Republican nomination hanging in the balance, the Anne Arundel County Board of Supervisors of Elections counted 1,455 absentee ballots Thursday afternoon.

The new counts did not alter the outcome of any of the races following Tuesday's primary, said Nancy Crawford, county elections administrator. Crawford said the primary returns must be recounted and verified before her office declares the results final next week.

Michaelson, an engineering consultant who heads a state-appointed Baltimore-Washington International Airport advisory committee, had led Serabian, a management trainer, by a mere nine votes, 928-919, Tuesday night. But more than 17 absentee ballots remained outstanding.

"Nobody expected it to be that close," said Michaelson, who only decided at the last minute last summer to run for office. "Everybody thought it would be more one way or another."

But Michaelson said he never worried too much about the close race.

"I worked so hard and I was so tired by the time the polls closed, I didn't have time to sweat about it," Michaelson said. "It was in somebody else's hands."

Serabian conceded Friday, but fretted at the poor voter turnout.

"It underscores the importance of getting the vote out," Serabian said. "Twenty of his (voters) showed up and 21 of my supporters stayed home."

Countywide, only 38 percent of Anne Arundel's 162,348 registered voters exercised their right last week. About 45 percent of the 97,962 Democrats and 27 percent of the 64,286 Republicans voted.

In the Nov. 6 general election, Michaelson will face Democrat Edward Middlebrooks, a 35-year-old Severn attorney who topped a field of five candidates in Tuesday's primary. The winner will replace Glen Burnie Democrat Michael F. Gilligan, who staged an unsuccessful bid for county executive.

"It's just like competing with my own kid in a way," said Michaelson, 55, who said his two sons grew up with Middlebrooks, 35, in their Timber Ridge neighborhood. "But I would still like to win."

In the sheriff's race, incumbent Democrat William R. Huggins extended his 146-vote lead over Norman Wedemeyer, a county police lieutenant, to 193 votes after 933 Democratic absentee ballots had been counted.

Huggins will face State Police Sgt. Robert Pepersack, who easily outdistanced his Republican opponents Tuesday, in the Nov. 6 general election.

Pepersack has made clear he would prefer to face Huggins, who is seeking his eighth term.

"Huggins carries a lot of baggage," Pepersack said following the primary. "Norm Wedemeyer I know. He's a qualified police officer."

In the District 30 House of Delegates race, Patricia Clagett conceded the Democratic nomination Friday to Edith Segree. Incumbents John Astle and Michael Busch easily led the Democratic field for two of the three nominations.

However, the race between Clagett, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Maryland, and Segree, an aide to County Councilwoman Carole Baker, appeared neck and neck until the finish. Segree led by 114 votes following the primary, but 286 Democratic absentee ballot were outstanding. In the end, Clagett trailed by 98.

"The incumbents and Mrs. Segree deserve congratulations for their nominations," Clagett said. "It was close and, of course, I'm disappointed.

"If I could have been to a few more (events) and met a few more voters, I think we could have pulled it off."

The three District 30 Democrats will face Republicans Aris T. Allen and Philip Bissett, who were unopposed in their party's primary.

Staff writer Gary Gately also contributed to this story.

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