Which way the Frederick County Council will lean politically remains up in the air with three council seats in two races still too close to call.
As of Thursday afternoon, Kai Hagen (D) and Phil Dacey (R) are the two leaders in the council at-large race, with 43,002 and 42,781 votes respectively. Both would be elected if results hold.
Danny Farrar (R) is behind those two with 42,531 votes.
Frederick County Election Director Stuart Harvey said any candidate can ask for a recount of election results. If the gap is less than one-half of 1 percent, the recount is free, he added.
If it’s more than that, candidates must post a bond in court to have the recount completed. The cost of that is determined by the Board of Elections and how much work it would entail, Harvey said.
Farrar told The Frederick News-Post that he wouldn’t ask for a recount, unless it didn’t cost him any money.
“I don’t have money to throw at a recount. ... But if it’s something that’s so close, I would consider it,” Farrar said.
According to Harvey, 3,592 absentee ballots had been returned countywide as of Wednesday. Of those, 1,935 were from Democrats, 1,003 from Republicans and 654 from other voters.
Harvey said via email Thursday that canvassing and counting of absentee ballots should be completed by Friday afternoon. Those results, and the number of provisional ballots, should be available by then, he said.
According to a news release, the Board of Elections counted more than 2,800 absentee ballots on Thursday. The board estimates that over 5,000 absentee ballots will be counted in total.
Hagen said Wednesday he felt fairly confident in his chances, given a heavy Democratic edge in ballots not counted yet. He said there would have to be a “razor-sharp edge” for him to consider a recount.
“We know there are all kinds of serious problems with elections across the country,” Hagen said. “But those things are not true here. I have tremendous faith in the electoral laws and systems in Maryland and this county.”
Dacey said he was unsure of whether he would consider a recount. He said he’s waiting to see what the absentee and provisional ballots show.
Since it is likely Hagen will be elected and split the at-large vote with one of the two Republicans, the other race too close to call — District 1 — will likely determine whether the council has a Democratic or Republican majority.
That’s because — pending the canvassing of ballots and certification of the election — Republicans Steve McKay and Michael Blue were elected to districts 2 and 5, respectively. Democrats M.C. Keegan-Ayer and Jessica Fitzwater were re-elected to districts 3 and 4.
As of Thursday afternoon, Republican Kevin Grubb led District 1 incumbent Jerry Donald (D) by 57 votes. Grubb said Wednesday evening he didn’t know if he would ask for a recount.
Donald said Wednesday he would consider a recount.
“We’ll have to see when we get there. It would have to be extremely close,” he said, adding the less than .1 percent rule would make him lean toward doing so.
If the recount didn’t cost him any money, he probably would ask for one, he said.
Many candidates who were safely elected said Wednesday they’ll be watching the at-large and District 1 races closely to figure out which party will have the majority on the council.
A theme from candidates in both parties, however, is that this council should be able to work together better than the first County Council.
“My whole thing is it doesn’t really matter at the local level if you’re Republican or Democrat,” said Keegan-Ayer, the council’s current vice president. “People still want their recycling picked up and their first responders to be there when something bad happens.”
Blue, the incoming Republican councilman in District 5, said he also wants the new council to be more cooperative.
“I think too much emphasis is based on the fringes of the party. ... Once we’re set on that council, I think that needs to be secondary. ... I think the individuals that ran, they’re running for the right reasons,” he said.
The new County Council will first have to decide whom to name as the board’s president. Bud Otis, the current president, finished last in the at-large race, with about 7 percent of the vote as of Thursday afternoon.
Hagen, noting Keegan-Ayer’s experience as council vice president, said she would be a good choice.
Farrar said he would prefer a Republican member to serve, to act as a check and balance on Democratic County Executive Jan Gardner, who won re-election on Tuesday.
Both Keegan-Ayer and Blue, however, said the majority party shouldn’t automatically select one of its own to serve.
“It’s going to depend on what the council as a whole decides,” Keegan-Ayer said. “If they wish for me to serve, I’ll do it. ... But it’s a little premature, because we don’t know everyone who has been elected.”
Blue said: “I would really rather see the person that would be best suited for that position. I wouldn’t necessarily say they have to be Republican.”
All election results are unofficial until absentee ballots and provisional ballots are counted, and canvassing of all ballots occurs.