Races await count of absentees 35 votes separate Dell, Mills for third commissioner post


Final tally expected today

Amedori's thin defeat of Blair for delegate could also be affected

September 17, 1998|By John Murphy and James M. Coram | John Murphy and James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

The outcomes of three Republican primary races will remain in doubt until this afternoon, when election officials finish counting absentee ballots cast in Tuesday's election.

The tightest race is the party's nomination for the third seat on the Board of County Commissioners. Incumbent Donald I. Dell squeaked by political newcomer Melvin Mills of Finksburg by only 35 votes.

The results today could also affect Carmen Amedori's narrow victory over W. David Blair in the House of Delegates primary, but is not likely to change the outcome. Blair trails Amedori by 277 votes, but only 532 Republicans requested absentee ballots.

Likewise, incumbent Judge Albert W. Selby will have to make up a lot of ground to close a 146-vote gap that separates him from Herbert J. Reisig, the third-place winner in the Orphans' Court primary.

Election officials, with party leaders looking on, will begin counting the ballots at 10 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors of Elections' conference room. The tabulation is expected to take several hours.

Mills is optimistic.

"I think it's really too close to call," he said. "With all the absentee ballots not counted, we would seem to have an excellent chance of winning this thing."

Dell declined to comment on his race, only saying that he will "sweat" until all the absentee ballots are tabulated.

The eventual winner will join Republicans Julia Walsh Gouge and Robin Bartlett Frazier as their party's nominees on the November ballot.

Gouge, 58, of Hampstead served two terms as commissioner from 1986 to 1994, before joining Republican gubernatorial candidate William S. Shepard, as his running mate for lieutenant governor.

Gouge also was mayor of Hampstead from 1983 to 1986 and a member of the Hampstead Town Council from 1979 to 1983.

Former chairwoman

Frazier, 38, of Manchester is the former planning commission chairwoman and a former member of the Republican Central Committee.

The fact that Dell is struggling to survive the primary and incumbent Richard T. Yates finished fifth is evidence that voters were not pleased with the current Board of County Commissioners, said Donald R. Jansiewicz, professor of political science at Carroll Community College.

Yates, Dell and Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown -- who finished last in the House of Delegates race in eastern Carroll County -- all suffered from their failure to resolve some of the county's main issues: growth, a revised master plan, transportation and taxes.

That weakness was also clear from the large number of Republican candidates who entered the primary, Jansiewicz said.

"There was a recognition among Republicans that the incumbent commissioners may have been vulnerable, some of them more vulnerable than others. There was an opportunity to challenge them," he said.

"If Brown would have run [for commissioner], he probably would not have survived," Jansiewicz said. "It was not his switch that led to his demise."

Out-polled nearly 2-1

Brown lost every precinct Tuesday and was out-polled by Amedori and Blair by nearly 2-to-1. He was beaten even more handily by incumbents Joseph M. Getty of Manchester and Nancy R. Stocksdale of Westminster.

But Charles E. Neal, professor of political science at Western Maryland College, said the incumbents' problems had less to do with their performance than with the tremendous campaign efforts made by political newcomers.

New residents moving to the county are open to new names and faces, Neal said.

"The old guard is being outnumbered by the new people coming in," he said, and "the newcomers are becoming more active."

Although Dell and Mills were separated by only 35 votes, Dell is likely to hold that lead today if absentee results follow Tuesday's voting pattern.

Where Mills was strong Tuesday, Dell was also strong. Voters who made Mills their first choice were likely to include Dell as one of their other two choices on the ballot.

Mills wins in Taneytown

In Taneytown, for example, Mills was the overall winner, but Dell was the runner-up. That was true also in Manchester. Even in Westminster, where Dell faltered slightly and Mills racked up a first-place finish in virtually every precinct, Dell managed to finish at least third -- good enough to win his party's nomination -- in four out of seven precincts.

The reason Dell might survive and his colleagues didn't is that the two-term incumbent is "a known quantity," Jansiewicz said. "It helped him. I don't think he came off as ideological as Yates, nor did he have any of the problems that Brown had. He was viewed as a moderate candidate."

Except for Westminster, Mills stumbled in the same precincts where Dell stumbled. Both, for example, were perceived as favoring more growth than most South Carroll voters believe tolerable, and were shunned in virtually all of the Freedom District precincts in southeastern Carroll.

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