Voters turned out to vote in the hard-fought primary races in Montgomery County on Tuesday, spurred by concerns over development, affordable housing and education issues in Maryland’s most populous county.

There was still no winner predicted Tuesday night in the Democratic primary race for Montgomery County executive or the Democratic primaries for county council, with precincts still counting Election Day results and thousands of mail-in votes remaining to be counted later this week.

Just after midnight, incumbent Marc Elrich and Potomac businessman David Blair have been locked in a battle for the county executive – recalling their match in the 2018 primary, which Elrich won by 77 votes despite heavy spending by Blair, who poured millions of his own money into the campaign, as he has done again this year.

“I think I’ve seen this play before,” Elrich said in an interview. “I would rather be in a better place. I don’t want to be in a worse place. It’s frustrating, but I feel pretty good.

In 2018, it took nearly two weeks and a recount to declare Elrich the winner. This year, with thousands of mail-in votes that under Maryland law cannot be counted until Thursday, there could be another long wait for race results. This year, however, Blair said he hoped the outcome would be different.

“Obviously it’s going to be another close race and it’s similar to how the race started four years ago,” Blair said. “I think the difference this time is that we were lucky to find ourselves in front of more voters.”

Elrich also took on limited-time county council member Hans Riemer (D-At Large) and robotics company executive Peter James in the primary.

2022 Maryland Primary Election Results

Republican primary winner Shelly Skolnick or Reardon Sullivan will also be on the ballot in November, but the Democratic primary is tantamount to winning the general election in the deep blue county, which did not elect a county executive. Republican since the 1970s.

Affordable housing, land use and development have become central issues in the race for residents, as well as education, public safety and transportation, as they prepare to choose who will lead DC’s affluent suburbs.

The county last year redesigned its council district lines, adding two new council seats in hopes of better representing the county’s changing demographics, which had become more racially diverse over the past four decades. According to the new council map approved last year, District 5 has a Black plurality and District 6 has a Hispanic plurality. The influx of new residents has also translated into increased demand for housing, sparking intense zoning debates and dividing the county over how best to advance development.

Elrich won the county’s first elected office in 2018 due in part to the popularity of his distrust of rapid and widespread development, instead supporting slow growth to offset school overcrowding and traffic congestion.

At Bethesda Elementary School on Tuesday, Sergio Kapfer, 72, said Elrich’s approach to development was the right one for the county.

“I’m not pro-development,” he said.

“Definitely not pro-development,” added his wife, Daphna Krim, 70.

The couple have lived in Bethesda since the 1980s, before apartment and office buildings took over parts of the neighborhood.

“It used to be a very quiet and charming residential area,” Krim said. “Now it’s just really built up. Too many people. Too much traffic.”

But for those who want to see faster growth, Elrich has been a divisive figure in local politics – drawing critics who say he is stunting the county’s development.

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Diane Taitt, 56, voted for him in 2018 but said she now wanted someone who would bring more density and support businesses to Silver Spring, where she lives.

“I don’t think he moved the needle on the right formula to drive business in downtown Silver Spring,” Taitt said of Elrich. “It is time to allow more density. We are just outside of town. She voted Tuesday for Riemer.

Others have looked to Blair for a new face in politics. Antitrust attorney Danny Cohen, 64, walked eight activists wielding pamphlets and countless lawn signs with his wife on their way to vote for Blair at the Carver Educational Services Center in Rockville.

“I really want Marc Elrich out,” Cohen said. “I want to have fresh blood, someone who can turn things around.”

Voters also voted for four at-large council members and seven council district seats. Among the Democrats vying for the general nominations were incumbent general Gabe Albornoz, who serves as council chairman, Will Jawando and Evan Glass, and District 5 incumbent Tom Hucker. Hucker ran for county executive for several months but withdrew his candidacy in April.

On Thursday, Amy Linde pulled up outside the Wheaton Recreation Center and jumped out waving her ballot in the air. She came to vote for Elrich and District 6 council candidate Omar Lazo.

“Elrich, he still gets hit, but I still think he’s the better candidate overall,” Linde, 39, said. “And Omar Lazo is great. My neighbor and a good friend of mine worked on Omar’s campaign. You know, we talked a lot about the same values.

Councilman Andrew Friedson (D-District 1), whose district includes Bethesda, Potomac, Chevy Chase and most of Travilah and who ran unopposed in primary, made his first stop at school Elementary Bethesda on an Election Day tour that took him to 25. polling stations throughout the department.

“I feel great,” Friedson said with a campaign sticker affixed to his short-sleeved polo shirt. “It’s always fun to see democracy in action.”

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In the weeks leading up to Election Day, competition in the executive and county council races grew increasingly heated. At least two super PACs have emerged to sway the race – one focused on affordable housing and aiming to keep votes away from Elrich, and another financially backed by real estate and development groups, who endorsed Blair with a slate of council candidates, including Albornoz, Verre and Hucker.

The attacks – and the PACs – drew criticism from leaders and voters who said the influence of the money added unnecessary confusion and intensity to local races.

Mark Drury, a 66-year-old Wheaton resident who voted for Elrich in the early vote, said there was no single issue that prompted him to vote. In general, he thought Elrich was successful in his first term — and attacking ads from his opponents and PACs dissuaded him from competing.

“There is some negativity in this race, which is upsetting,” Drury said. “They are all good people. They have different opinions, want to do different things. I don’t agree with everyone.”

David Stevens, 75, shared a similar sentiment about the constant ads when he cast his ballot for Elrich at the Silver Spring Civic Building on Tuesday.

“I didn’t like the fact that there were these ads that were just attacking Elrich,” Stevens said. “These attacks were unnecessary.”

According to the latest campaign finance deposit reports, Blair has loaned his campaign a total of $4.8 million, adding $1.85 million since the last deposit in mid-June. He previously contributed $5.4 million to his 2018 campaign. Both Riemer and Elrich have raised more than $1 million through the county’s public fundraising program, which allows them to receive matching funds for donations under $250 from county residents.

Despite the heat and expense in the race, early voting turnout still got off to a slow start in this year’s primary, which also includes statewide positions like governor and attorney general. Just over 24,700 — or 3.7% of eligible voters in Montgomery County — cast ballots during the eight-day early voting period that ended Thursday night.

As of Monday, more than 29,000 voters in the county had returned absentee ballots, according to the state board of elections, and more than 115,000 had requested ballots.

Eva Herscowitz and Sammy Sussman contributed to this report.

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