Jeff Gahler picked up a few more crucial votes after the first canvassing of absentee ballots by election officials on Thursday, widening his razor-thin lead over Steven Bodway in the Republican primary race for Sheriff.
Gahler picked up 101 votes Thursday, while Bodway brought in another 76; widening Gahler’s lead to 78 votes with approximately 500 ballots left to be counted next Wednesday
“We still have next week,” Bodway said.
Board of Elections officials canvassed 575 ballots on Thursday and Harford County Election Director James Massey said he expects roughly the same number of ballots to be counted next week. Massey estimated 330 provisional and about 200 more absentee ballots will be counted on Wednesday at 10 a.m.
Bodway trailed Gahler by just 66 votes, or four-tenths of a percentage point, after election night. That margin was cut to 53 votes after a memory card was left in a voting machine at Joppatowne Elementary. The Board of Elections was aware that votes were contained on the card, so a bi-partisan team picked it up and included it among the cards counted.
Gahler and Bodway were both present midday Thursday for the canvassing. Gahler attended with former Harford County Sheriff’s Office Col. Howard Walter, who was a polarizing figure during his time with the Sheriff’s Office and since retiring in 2006. It has been speculated that Walter’s wife, Havre de Grace Police Chief Teresa Walter, may be named Gahler’s undersheriff if he advances to the General Election.
Standing over the canvassing machines, Gahler was able to see the votes as they were counted. When he could see that he was picking up a few more votes, Gahler said it “makes my heart feel better.”
According to Gahler, all but one of the four Republican candidates for sheriff, including Bodway, mutually agreed to endorse the primary winner against incumbent Democratic Sheriff Jesse Bane in November’s General Election. Told that Bodway may not endorse him, Gahler said, “I’m a man of my word.”
Bodway acknowledged a “gentleman’s agreement” had been made, but said he would reflect before making any endorsement. Bodway said that time has passed since that agreement was struck and hinted that new information and experiences may weigh into his decision, but would not elaborate.
Viewing the recount, Bodway decried the low voting turnout and said it was “devastating” that a number of absentee ballots had no votes for any sheriff’s candidate. He speculated that the section may have gone blank on a number of ballots as it was on the reverse side of the ballot.
“Now we know that every single vote counts,” Bodway said.
Another race was too close to call on election night was the battle between incumbent State Del. Dan Riley and challenger Marla Posey-Moss for the second seat in the District 34A Democratic primary. On election night, Posey-Moss led by 43 votes over Riley, a six-term member of the House of Delegates.
After Thursday’s canvas, there was no change in the Riley/Posey-Moss standings as both candidates picked up another 35 votes each.
“In respect for my supporters, I’m going to wait for the whole process to play out,” Riley said.
Also in attendance for the canvas Thursday was District B Board of Education candidate Tom Myers, who was 131 votes behind Cassandra Beverley for the chance to advance to the General Election.
Beverley gained another 14 votes Thursday, while Myers brought in only 9 more – widening his gap to 136 votes.
“The margin is about the same, so I wait until next week,” Myers said.
Republican District B County Council candidate Derek Howell was also present for Thursday’s absentee ballot count. Howell trailed incumbent Councilman Joe Woods by 466 votes.
Howell, who said he did not expect a change in the results, but remained at the Board of Elections ballot counting all day, lost some further ground – only picking up 17 votes, while Woods added 25.
The final counting of the remaining ballots will be conducted at the Board of Elections office Wednesday, September 22 at 10 a.m.