- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Del. Peter Murphy felt good heading into Tuesday’s primary election that his campaign for Charles County commissioners’ president had appealed to voters, but he said he never expected to walk away from his race against current commisioners’ Vice President Reuben B. Collins II with a double-digit victory.
By the time the polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Murphy (D-Charles) had claimed 8,012 votes, 55.2 percent of the total cast for commissioners’ president. Collins (D) finished with 6,502 votes, or 44.8 percent.
“My first reaction was that I was just really humbled by the amount of support that we got, and I’m just so grateful for the people that came out and supported us,” Murphy said. “I was optimistic going in, but I had no idea we’d have the amount of support that we had, so I’m obviously very grateful for that.”
Collins congratulated Murphy on his win, and said he is hopeful that his opponent can deliver on his campaign promise to bring more unity to county government.
“I think as a Charles County resident, you want to see the county move forward, and his campaign was based on the fact that he would do that,” Collins said. “At the end of the day our county has to move forward, and it’s unfortunate a lot of the rhetoric that was out there was part of the campaign overall, but my hope is that our county can continue to move forward and work collectively, and not attack each other.”
While Murphy held a substantial lead from the time results began trickling in, one of his principal supporters, District 1 Commissioner Ken Robinson (D), spent election night biting his fingernails before ultimately celebrating victory.
In a near repeat of the district’s 2010 primary race, Robinson squeaked by former Commissioner Sam Graves with 7,080 votes, 50.3 percent of the total, while Graves received 6,995 votes, or 49.7 percent.
“I am spent,” Robinson said. “It was a very long, hard campaign, especially during the last week. It turned out to be a very close race, so I’m glad that I put 110 percent into it, because obviously it was needed.”
Despite preparing for the race to be close, Robinson said he was still “surprised” by how close the final margin was.
“I also understand that former Commissioner Graves has a large following,” Robinson added. “He ran an excellent campaign, so I ran my race as if it was going to be close, as it was.”
Graves said Thursday he had not decided whether to request a recount or not. He planned to check in with the Charles County Board of Elections on the results of its first absentee ballot sweep Thursday morning before making any decision.
Graves did say that he was disappointed in the turnout Tuesday — 21,401 of the county’s 99,857 eligible voters cast ballots, or 21.43 percent — given that the primary is likely to decide many if not all of the partisan races in Charles County, where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by more than 2-to-1.
The county’s turnout rate ranked 12th highest in the state, according to unofficial counts compiled by the Maryland Board of Elections.
“I think its pretty dismal turnout when 21 percent determine who our leaders will be for the next four years,” Graves said.
In the six-way Democratic primary in District 2, early returns had Commissioner Debra M. Davis (D) trailing top challenger Melanie B. Holland for a chunk of election night, but late results catapulted Davis into the winners’ circle with 5,468 votes, 39.8 percent of the district’s total. Holland finished second with 5,017 votes, or 36.5 percent.
“It was great to be out there meeting people even though so many people had different views, but we’re all committed to moving Charles County forward, to being community builders and not being divisive,” Davis said.
The remaining four contestants finished well behind Davis and Holland — Johnnie DeGiorgi came in third with 1,312 votes (9.6 percent), Mike Cassidy received 1,141 votes (8.3 percent), Larreic Green got 480 votes (3.5 percent) and Leya “Blondie” Davis tallied 309 votes (2.3 percent). Neither Cassidy nor Leya Davis actively campaigned, while Green recently announced he had pulled out of the race after accepting a job in Atlanta.
“There were a lot of losers and some winners. I just hope the losers, even though they weren’t successful in their bid for elective office, stay active in the community,” Debra Davis said. “That’s what’s most important, even more than being an elected leader.”
The lone political novice to emerge victorious in a primary for commissioner Tuesday was schoolteacher Amanda Stewart, who won the Democratic race in District 3 with 4,958 votes, 35.7 percent of the total. Fellow Waldorf resident Kamilah A. Way finished a close second with 4,534 votes, or 32.7 percent.
Waldorf activist Jim Easter came in third, with 2,947 votes, 21.2 percent. Waldorf residents Robert J. Taylor and John Ashburn finished a distant fourth and fifth, respectively, with 832 (6 percent) and 613 (4.4 percent) votes.
Stewart said she is not intimidated by the prospect of joining three incumbents and a current delegate on the board.
“I think I am very fortunate to potentially be working with well-seasoned professionals,” Stewart said. “I look forward to working with my future colleagues, and building positive relationships so we can work together as a whole and be united as the Charles County commissioners. People want to see the commissioners working together as whole. I will just be one team member, and I am excited to get to work.”
Murphy said he is excited about the “fresh perspective” Stewart figures to bring to the board as someone who is not coming from a current government position.
“She is bright. She is enthusiastic, and she really loves the county,” he added.
No commissioner candidate broke less of a sweat on election night than Commissioner Bobby Rucci (D), who cakewalked to the Democratic nomination in District 4 with 5,698 votes, 42 percent of the total. Richard Allen Aldridge came in a distant second with 2,999 votes, or 22.1 percent. Vincent “Vinny” Ippolito finished third with 2,680 votes (19.7 percent), while Emmanuel Ogungbesan received 2,199 votes (16.2 percent).
Despite his wide margin of victory, Rucci said he didn’t feel safe until the final results were in.
“I felt good about it, but you never know. It was a strange race,” he said. “I just kept working hard and stuck with my goals. You don’t count on nothing until it’s over with. There’s so much to do, and I give everyone credit for trying. Running for public office is not fun. It’s a lot of work, so I give everybody credit.”
Once the final results came in showing Robinson had eked out his victory, photos emerged on social media showing him celebrating alongside Murphy and Stewart at The Prime Street Grille restaurant in White Plains.
The election is expected to, at minimum, flip the 3-2 vote that has characterized the current board. Whereas Collins, Davis and Rucci have often voted in favor of policies supported by the county’s business community and local developers, Murphy and Stewart now figure to join Robinson in support of smart growth and environmentally friendly initiatives.
But Robinson said he hopes Murphy, who worked as a professional mediator before entering politics, “will bring a calming influence to the board.”
“I would like to think as we move forward that we will find greater consensus among all five of us to tackle the issues ahead,” Robinson said. “I’m hoping that the days of the 3-2 divide are over.”
There were no contested Republican primaries for commissioner. La Plata resident Tom deSabla will face Murphy in the Nov. 4 general election, while Waldorf resident J.T. Crawford will opppose Robinson, Pomfret resident Mike Bakir will face Davis, Hughesville resident Steve Mattingly will go up against Stewart, and Waldorf resident John Young will face Rucci.