Six-term Baltimore incumbent Sen. George Della was unseated Tuesday by a political newcomer, as legislators across the state waited anxiously to learn their fate amid some surprisingly strong challenges.
Just around midnight the Associated Press called Baltimore's hotly contested waterfront senate race for Bill Ferguson. "It is unbelievable," said Ferguson, 27, of the results. "It feels absolutely amazing. I'm inspired by where our city is headed." Della could not be reached.
Results were posted on an ad hoc basis on various county websites into early Wednesday. Maryland's State Board of Elections underwent apparent technical problems, with the site crashing throughout Tuesday evening.
Eight of Maryland's senators faced challenges from either sitting or former delegates, presenting unusually pitched battles for incumbents.
Nine Senate races will be determined by Tuesday's votes. When added to the 10 unopposed incumbents, that means 19 of the 47 seats in the Maryland Senate will be decided in Tuesday's voting. About half of the 141-member House of Delegates will be selected based on Tuesday's results.
House Judiciary Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr. won his bid for re-election despite attracting the ire of the woman's caucus this session. The female members critiqued what they viewed as his gruff handling of witnesses who testify about sensitive crimes issues.
With almost all precincts reporting in Baltimore and Carroll counties early Wednesday morning, incumbent Sen. Norman Stone was leading political newcomer Jordan Hadfield, who is 27, by about 500 votes, according to the Associated Press. Stone has held his seat since the 1960s, and was credited this year for pushing a successful measure that prohibits drivers from talking on mobile phones.
In Baltimore County's southeastern district, J.B. Jennings, a delegate and former congressional intern for Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., won his race against Alfred W. Redmer Jr., the state's former insurance commissioner, AP reported. The race was for a seat left open by state Sen. Andrew P. Harris, who is running for Congress.
Though Ehrlich, who is campaigning to reclaim the governor's mansion, has ties to both Republican candidates, he put his support behind Jennings.
Moments after polls closed, Redmer sent out an e-mail to supporters. "Win or lose, I am very proud of the campaign we have run," he said. Jennings will have to face a Democratic challenger in November, but the right-leaning district reliably picks GOP candidates.
In Baltimore City, Sen. Joan Carter Conway, who chairs the Senate's Education, Health and Environmental Affairs, easily fended off a challenge from former Baltimore Fire Department spokesman Hector Torres.
Also, Keiffer J. Mitchell, a former Baltimore city councilman and one-time candidate for mayor, won a seat in the 44th House District, according to the AP.
Mitchell spent Tuesday riding through Sandtown and other neighborhoods in the district shouting campaign slogans over a megaphone and playing '70s and '80s music to appeal to the over-50 crowd that seemed to be dominant at the polls.
Mitchell said he's not sure how many voters it turned out, but he got people dancing on the corner — and some weird looks from bystanders.
The city's waterfront has long presented the hottest legislative race: Della and challenger Ferguson fought a bitter contest that involved mudslinging from both sides.
Liz Cristofalo, 40, a pediatrician, said she voted for Ferguson on Tuesday because of his work as a teacher in the city. "I think Ferguson represents change," she said.
Still, she found the tone of the closely fought battle distasteful. "I think they were both crazy," she said. "I'm unimpressed with both of their negative campaigning."
Della distributed a flier showing a picture of Ferguson sticking out of the pocket of well-known developer Patrick Turner, who backs the challenger. Ferguson sent out mailers showing that Della double-dipped on the Homestead Property Tax Credit, collecting the tax break for two homes, which is a violation.
Moments after polls closed, Ferguson decamped to a Silo Point restaurant, picking as his primary day party locale a building constructed by Turner.
The two crossed paths at Canton's Hatton Senior Citizen Center on Tuesday morning, typically one of the busiest polling places on Election Day. They stood on opposite corners handing out literature.
"It's been a stressful last week," said Ferguson, who characterized turnout as a "trickle."
In Western Maryland, Sen. Don Munson, with two decades of experience in the chamber, lost his seat to Del. Christopher Shank, a conservative firebrand who holds a GOP leadership position in the House of Delegates.
Munson had said Tuesday afternoon he felt good about his chances. "I've done a lot of sign waving," he said. "When I stand on corners, 75 or 80 percent are waving back to me or give a V for victory. That's got to mean something."