Branch wins tight council race

September 22, 2007|By Sumathi Reddy | Sumathi Reddy,Sun Reporter

Warren Branch, a city public works inspector, beat incumbent Vernon E. Crider in the District 13 City Council Democratic primary election by 51 votes, the city elections director said yesterday.

Provisional and absentee ballots were tallied yesterday and sent to the State Board of Elections, said Armstead B.C. Jones, the elections director.

The council race had been the only local contest in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary that was too close to call, though Branch led by a slim margin after the voting.

The 13th District primary was a tight race among the top three vote-getters. Emmett Guyton, a mechanic and ordained deacon, trailed Crider by 61 votes. Robert R. Stokes and Cynthia A. Gross also ran in the primary.

The district includes the McElderry Park, Berea and Ellwood Park/Monument neighborhoods of East Baltimore.

Branch, whose brother is Del. Talmadge Branch, a Baltimore Democrat, said he is relieved that the election has been settled.

"It was a real tight race, and it was up in the air for any one of us," said Branch, 46, who lives in Madison East End. "I'm just so glad that it's over with."

Branch said he hopes to sit down with community association leaders, businesses, churches and school officials to come up with a plan to help revitalize one of the city's most troubled areas.

Once he takes office, he said, he will work to give community associations more resources and help businesses hire local workers to foster economic development and reduce high unemployment.

"Right now I would like to do a lot of healing in the district, with the high crime that we're having in the area," Branch said.

Crider, 43, who replaced City Councilwoman Paula Johnson Branch on the council in April after she left to take a job in real estate, said yesterday that he was disappointed and probably would return to teaching rather than run for public office again.

"I wish Mr. Branch well," he said.

Guyton, 38, continued to allege voter fraud, saying that he thinks votes in two precincts were not counted and that deceased voters were included in the tally.

"I'm very concerned about the whole process," he said. "I have so many questions, and I'm not getting the right answers. As a candidate, it's limited what I can do. But I don't see Mr. Branch winning this race with all these discrepancies."

Jones said no evidence of voter fraud was found.

sumathi.reddy@baltsun.com

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