Leopold is likely GOP candidate for executive

Johnson defeats ex-Annapolis mayor to take Democratic race

Anne Arundel

Maryland Votes 2006 -- The Primary Election

September 14, 2006|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,Sun reporter

Del. John R. Leopold emerged yesterday as the apparent winner of a close Republican primary for Anne Arundel County executive, setting the stage for a fall contest against another well-known county official, Democratic Sheriff George F. Johnson IV.

With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Leopold had 36 percent of the votes to 31 percent for former state Del. Phillip D. Bissett, 26 percent for Del. David G. Boschert, 4 percent for Baltimore teacher Tom Angelis and 3 percent for county schools official Gregory V. Nourse.

Leopold, 63, claimed victory yesterday afternoon, as elections officials were still tallying the votes. "Five percentage points is a significant spread," said Leopold, who referred to the margin as "insurmountable."

His closest competitor, Bissett, was not ready to concede the race yesterday. His campaign was prepared to await the count from a handful of remaining precincts, along with provisional and absentee ballots, the latter of which will be counted starting today, Bissett said.

"When the officially certified result becomes available, we will issue our statement," said Bissett, who narrowly lost the 2002 county executive race to Democrat Janet S. Owens.

Boschert, however, wasn't waiting for the official results to concede victory to Leopold.

"I gave it my best shot," said Boschert. "We were professional and aboveboard; ... we just weren't successful."

On the Democratic side, Johnson defeated former Annapolis Mayor Dennis Callahan by 62 percent to 38 percent, with 97 percent of precincts reporting. Callahan conceded in a phone message at 7:45 a.m. yesterday.

"I think we both realized that the numbers are speaking from themselves," Johnson, 52, said.

For the Republican candidates and their volunteers, however, yesterday's counts followed a night of uncertainty over who had won the county executive primary.

As of about 3 a.m. yesterday, fewer than 70 percent of the votes had been tabulated, and some gave up until the morning.

County election officials attributed the delays to six precincts that failed to pass along electronic vote totals to the Board of Elections. Officials did not discover the electronic cards containing the results were missing until after midnight.

"I am just disappointed that this election fiasco went the way it did, human error and computer error," Boschert said. "This is a disservice to this county that we have to experience all of this frustration."

Leopold built up a $450,000 campaign treasury for a primary run, with about $266,000 of that coming in the form of personal loans. He stuck largely to door-knocking and sending out mailings. He had about $380,000 as of Sept. 1.

Some Republicans have criticized Leopold for not spending the money he lends to his campaigns, but Leopold said he plans to do so this time, in addition to stepping up fundraising efforts, to compete with Johnson. The sheriff raised more than $1 million.

"I will, I have to" spend personal funds, he said. "In any case, I have to raise more money."

Johnson said he also foresees a hard-fought race. Anne Arundel has more registered Democrats than Republicans, but the county has heavily backed President Bush and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in the past two elections.

Johnson said his 35-year record in law enforcement and positions on issues can help him win over voters.

"I have many, many people who are Republicans who say I am the only Democrat they will vote for," said Johnson, who had about $350,000 as of Sept. 1. "I think that speaks volumes."

Leopold said his ability to win five times as a delegate in District 31, a Democratic stronghold in the northeast section of the county, demonstrates his ability to win over independents and moderate Democrats.

"My greatest strength is in the general election, not the primary," he said.

In other contests, at least one County Council race remained undecided yesterday evening: In the District 4 GOP primary, businessman Sid Saab led lawyer David A. Tibbetts by fewer than 100 votes, with nearly 96 percent of the vote counted.

Also, Joshua J. Cohen appeared to defeat fellow Annapolis City Council member Classie Gillis Hoyle in the Democratic primary in District 6; lawyer and civic activist Jamie Benoit easily defeated three other Democrats in District 4; and in the most surprising result, lawyer Daryl Jones pulled off an upset victory over civic activist Richard "Irk" Forgo in District 1.

Jones won by a 2-to-1 margin despite having less money and fewer endorsements than Forgo.

In the race to replace longtime Register of Wills George M. Nutwell Jr., Democrat Jacqueline B. Allsup and Republican Lauren M. Parker advanced easily.

In the GOP sheriff's primary, John E. Moran IV led Wally Campbell 62 percent to 38 percent, with nearly 97 percent of the precincts reporting. Moran will face Democrat Ronald Bateman.

Circuit Court Clerk Robert Duckworth carried 86 percent of the vote in defeating Howard Neugebauer. There is no Democratic challenger.

phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

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