After originally trailing by fewer than 60 votes, Jerry Donald is now leading his opponent in his re-election bid for the Frederick County Council’s District 1 seat.
With the first round of absentee ballots now counted, Donald leads Republican Kevin Grubb by 209 votes as of Friday. After ballots were counted on Election Day, Donald trailed his opponent by 57 votes.
“I’m very excited about that. ... I feel good about it right now. It’s not absolute, but I feel good about it,” Donald said when reached Friday night.
Donald has experience with close elections. Four years ago, after all the ballots were counted, canvassed and certified, Donald (D) defeated Republican Ellen Bartlett in the District 1 race by 25 votes.
The District 1 race is important because it will likely determine whether the next council has a Democratic or Republican majority. As of Friday evening, Kai Hagen (D) leads Republicans Phil Dacey and Danny Farrar for the first of two at-large seats, and it’s likely those seats will be split along party lines when all votes are counted.
In the other races, Steve McKay (R) and Michael Blue (R) were elected to districts 2 and 5, respectively — pending the certification of those ballots. Democrats M.C. Keegan-Ayer and Jessica Fitzwater were re-elected to districts 3 and 4, respectively.
Donald said his election four years ago was close, even after election officials started to canvass following Election Day.
“Last time, we were exactly tied after the first batch of absentee [ballots], if I’m not mistaken,” he said.
He said earlier on Friday that he’s waiting to see what all the absentee and provisional ballots show, but that it’s “encouraging” that the canvassing of absentee ballots show more registered Democrats than Republicans.
A canvass of provisional ballots on Wednesday showed 1,684 of those ballots were cast, according to Election Director Stuart Harvey. Of those, 894 were from registered Democrats, 434 from registered Republicans and 356 were from other voters.
A second canvass of more provisional ballots will occur Nov. 14, and more absentee ballots will be counted on Nov. 16. The election will also be certified on the latter date if the current schedule holds.
Harvey said the deadline for any candidate to ask for a recount is three days after the election is certified. If the current schedule holds, that would mean candidates have to request a recount by the end of the day on Nov. 19.
Any recount, however, wouldn’t occur that week, because of Thanksgiving and other requirements, Harvey said.
“You can’t start the recount right away, because you have to advertise it,” he said. “The recount, at the earliest, would be the following week.”
The new County Council, per the county charter, will be sworn in Dec. 3, the first Monday of December.
Harvey said he isn’t concerned about that deadline, since a recount for the District 1 race would probably take two or three days.
All election results remain unofficial until absentee ballots and provisional ballots are counted, and canvassing of all ballots occurs.