Race for executive hangs in balance

Weathersbee appears to avert GOP challenge

Anne Arundel

Maryland Votes 2006 -- A Special Section

November 08, 2006|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,SUN REPORTER

The outcome of the most expensive county executive race in Anne Arundel County history was too close to call last night and will hinge on thousands of absentee and provisional ballots yet to be counted.

Based on unofficial results with all precincts reporting, Republican Del. John R. Leopold led Democrat George F. Johnson IV, the three-term sheriff of Anne Arundel County, by fewer than 400 votes out of more than 164,000 votes counted.

The outcome will be determined after the tallying of more than 15,000 absentee ballots, starting tomorrow, and the counting of potentially thousands of other provisional ballots next week.

"It's still up in the air," said Leopold, adding that he was prepared to wait until all paper ballots have been tallied. "I guess I have no choice."

As of early morning, Johnson had not addressed supporters at a Linthicum party.

"This thing is absolutely very close," said Johnson's campaign manager, Mike Rendina. "We want to make sure every provisional ballot and every other ballot is counted."

Johnson and Leopold, both from Pasadena, are seeking to succeed two-term Democrat Janet S. Owens, who is prevented by term limits from running again.

In another hotly contested race, longtime State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee, a Democrat, staved off a challenge from Republican David Fischer in the conservative-leaning county. Weathersbee received 54 percent to Fischer's 46 percent.

"If we are able to beat our ... opponent, it's because of all of our volunteers," Weathersbee said yesterday evening.

In the sheriff's race, Johnson's chief deputy, Democrat Ronald Bateman, defeated Republican John E. Moran IV, who was running for the office for the third time, 53 percent to 47 percent.

Republicans apparently retained their majority on the seven-member County Council. Republican council members C. Edward Middlebrooks in District 2 and Ronald C. Dillon Jr. in District 3 ran unopposed. Two other Republican incumbents, Cathleen M. Vitale in District 5 and Edward R. Reilly in District 7, had wide leads.

Democratic council candidates were comfortably ahead for three open seats: Daryl Jones in District 1; Jamie Benoit in District 4; and Joshua J. Cohen in District 6.

In the race to succeed retiring Register of Wills George M. Nutwell Jr., Republican Lauren M. Parker apparently defeated Democrat Jacqueline Boone Allsup.

The Republican Circuit Court clerk, Robert P. Duckworth, was unopposed, as was Circuit Judge William C. Mulford II.

The county executive candidates campaigned for nearly four years. They voiced similar views on managing growth, promoting mass transit and improving schools. But in recent weeks, they went on the attack with blistering television commercials.

Johnson raised more than $1.3 million in the past four years for this race, while Leopold took in nearly $500,000, more than half of it in loans to himself.

The 53-year-old sheriff promised to be inclusive in governing. He won the endorsement of five former county executives and several county unions.

Dorothy Svitak, 78, noted Johnson's reform of the sheriff's office as her reason for crossing party lines to vote for him.

"Moneywise, he knows how to manage a budget," said Svitak of Odenton.

Leopold, 63, said he knocked on more than 17,000 doors to build personal contacts. He stressed his independence from developers and the endorsement of the area's major newspapers.

Stan Klein of Odenton said he voted for Leopold in part because of his door-knocking efforts. Klein did not disclose his party affiliation but said he voted for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican.

"I was very impressed with that," Klein, 63, said of Leopold's personal approach. "It shows that he cares."

phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Jamie Stiehm contributed to this article.

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