The race for leadership of the local NAACP ended with incumbent director Jean Creek winning by 11 votes and challenger Gerald Stansbury vowing to contest the election.
Ms. Creek defeated Mr. Stansbury by a vote of 228 to 217 Wednesday night, beating back one of the toughest challenges she has faced in her 18 years as leader of the Anne Arundel County branch.
The tallies immediately were forwarded to the national NAACP, which will review the election to determine whether all the ballots were cast by valid members.
At issue are 19 ballots cast by voters whose names were not on branch membership rolls, said Claude Pack, chairman of the chapter's Election Supervisory Committee.
Ms. Creek said there is no doubt she will remain director.
"I feel a tremendous sense of relief," said Ms. Creek, 51, a Baltimore school system employee. "It is now time to bring all the factions together in community unity and get on with the business of running the NAACP."
Mr. Stansbury contends the election is invalid because branch leadership did not submit its membership lists to his campaign until the eve of the election. He has asked the national NAACP to determine whether the branch leadership was legally bound to release those membership lists earlier.
"We didn't get a chance to authenticate those lists," said Mr. Stansbury, a 43-year-old businessman. "We didn't get them until late, and they were just in such a shambles. I'm sure that's not what the bylaws allow."
Of the county branch's 1,100 members, more than 471 turned out to vote, election officials said. Seven ballots were disallowed because people had voted for both candidates.
Both candidates conducted telephone and mail campaigns and even bused people to the polling site at First Baptist Church in Annapolis.
Many voters said they couldn't remember a time when a local election had generated such interest.
Ms. Creek's supporters said they didn't think a longtime leader should be thrown away simply because a new candidate promised change.
"I believe in change, but change has to be for the better," said Lillian I. Johnson, 76, of Annapolis. "The challengers, they are younger. But Jean Creek, she's always been there."
On the other side were members who said the NAACP had lost its voice in the community under Ms. Creek's stewardship. These allies of Mr. Stansbury argued that Ms. Creek's connections, not her abilities, gave her the edge to win.
"She disappears for most of the time, but she knows how to turn out the troops when she needs to," said Lewis Bracy, who sits on the local chapter's Election Supervisory Committee. "After 18 years, you can't be very happy if you only win by 11 votes."
Both campaigns called in supervisors from the NAACP's national office in Baltimore to oversee the election. Ms. Creek's slate won four of the seven offices and 14 of the 24 spots on the executive committee, Mr. Bracy said.
"We came because of the intensity of the concerns of both candidates," said Janice Washington, a national official of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People who oversees the local chapters.
Voters on both sides said they thought the county NAACP would unify after the election, although many called the campaigns personal and divisive.
During the campaign, Ms. Creek claimed that Mr. Stansbury was put up for the post by black Democratic politicians who hoped to use the NAACP to enhance their local power.
Mr. Stansbury alleged that Ms. Creek was virtually invisible as leader of the NAACP and allowed the group to assume a low profile on issues such as crime and racial discrimination.