ANNAPOLIS -- The losing county-executive candidate in Anne Arundel County could find no comfort from absentee ballots yesterday, while candidates in Howard and Harford are still waiting for a final verdict.
After absentee votes were added, Republican Robert R. Neall simply widened his lead over Councilman Theodore J. Sophocleus in the Anne Arundel executive race to 59,219 to 56,177, a victory margin of about 2.6 percentage points.
Races for county executive in Howard and Harford counties remained in doubt yesterday.
In Howard County, Charles I. Ecker holds a slim 244-vote lead over incumbent Elizabeth Bobo, with about 1,500 ballots to be counted.
In Harford, Delegate Eileen M. Rehrmann was ahead of Geoffrey R. Close by a more commanding margin of 733 votes, with more than 1,300 votes still uncounted.
At Mr. Sophocleus' campaign headquarters in Glen Burnie, supporters were still stunned by the outcome in the Anne Arundel race. Polls had shown the 51-year-old licensed pharmacist leading. Even Mr. Neall's own Election Day exit polling had the Republican was running behind.
Mr. Sophocleus had yet to concede defeat as of late yesterday and did not return telephone calls. A campaign spokesman said the election results were still being analyzed and an announcement was expected shortly, however.
Though Mr. Sophocleus, a Linthicum resident, captured three of seven council districts, his victories were not large enough to compensate for lopsided Neall wins in the southern portion of the county and in the council district comprising Severna Park and the Broadneck peninsula.
Particularly surprising was Mr. Sophocleus' failure to capture more than 52 percent of the vote in Councilmanic Districts 2 and 3 in the northern half of the county.
"I just don't understand that," said Les Cohen, Mr. Sophocleus' campaign coordinator. "That's the part where it's hard to believe."
A high voter turnout -- 62 percent overall and as high as 81 percent in one precinct -- may have been a factor in the results. Concern over economic matters may have motivated them to favor Mr. Neall, 42, a three-term state delegate and Davidsonville native with experience in state budget matters and a reputation for fiscal austerity.
"I don't have the faintest idea what happened," said O. James Lighthizer, the outgoing county executive and a Sophocleus supporter. "Bob must have a very silent, almost invisible base of support that only shows up on Election Day."
It was a big day for Republican candidates in Anne Arundel County generally. The GOP captured two County Council seats and three courthouse jobs, sheriff, circuit court clerk and register of wills, and came within 500 votes of toppling the council's chairwoman.
Neall supporters admitted yesterday that their candidate had been upset and worried about polls which showed him trailing late in the race.
"I think he was not optimistic," said David Almy, the candidate's campaign manager. "I don't think that was based on actual information so much as a hunch of his."
After losing to Tom McMillen in a 1986 congressional race that was decided by fewer than 500 votes, Mr. Neall's comeback victory Tuesday was particularly sweet.
In Washington County, after counting absentee ballots, Democrat John P. Donoghue defeated Republican Bertrand Iseminger to win the District 2C delegate seat vacated by Donald F. Munson.
In Carroll County, absentee ballots failed to change the outcome of several close contests.
Challenger John H. Brown's lead over incumbent Sheriff Grover N. "Sam" Sensabaugh was narrowed to 227 votes in the tally, and incumbent Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge had a 556-vote advantage over runner-up Richard T. Yates.
The closest race was for two school-board seats. Joseph E. Mish Jr. led by a comfortable margin, but the absentee count left Ann M. Ballard 13 votes ahead of incumbent Robert L. Fletcher.