BERLIN – There were few surprises this week after voters across Worcester County and the Lower Shore turned out in modest numbers for Tuesday’s primary election, as the field of candidates in the District 38B House of Delegates race and the District 38 State Senate race came into focus.
In the District 38B primary on the Republican side, four candidates vied for the two spots needed to advance to the General Election in November in what turned out to be a fairly tight race. Pocomoke Mayor Mike McDermott emerged as the leader on Tuesday, collecting 3,897 total votes, or a little over 34 percent, across the district, which includes all of Worcester County and a portion of Wicomico County. Marty Pusey finished in second with 3,348 votes, or just under 30 percent, while A. Kaye Kenney finished with 2,835, or 25 percent, and Joe Schanno came in with 1,290, or a little over 11 percent.
In the District 38B primary on the Democratic side, the field was a little smaller and the spread was considerably wider. Long-time incumbent Norm Conway ruled the day, collecting 5,051 total votes, or about 55 percent. Berlin Mayor Gee Williams also made a strong showing, garnering 2,954, or about 32 percent of the vote. Bernard John Hayden got 1,193 votes across the district, or about 13 percent.
Those numbers reflect the vote from across the entire district, but a closer look at the vote in Worcester doesn’t suggest any parochial anomalies. On the Republican side, McDermott did almost exactly the same percentage wise in Worcester as he did in the entire district, while Pusey did slightly better in Worcester and Kenney did slightly better in Wicomico. On the Democratic side, Conway maintained practically the same percentage in Worcester as he did in Wicomico, while Williams did slightly better in Worcester than he did in Wicomico.
When all was said and done, a diverse field of candidates emerged from the primary to move on to the General Election in November. Obviously, there are two Democrats and two Republicans, and the top two vote getters regardless of party affiliation will move on. There are also three Worcester candidates and one from Wicomico, three men and one woman, one long-time incumbent, two current mayors and one long-time public servant.
What really emerged from Tuesday’s District 38B primaries was a clear choice between change and the status quo when voters head back to the polls in about six weeks. Conway was the big winner in terms of total votes in the partisan election while Williams easily advanced, setting up what appears to be a two-headed Democratic team in the district race in the great tradition of Conway-Bozman and most recently Conway-Mathias. Already, Williams appears to be embracing the ticket approach.
“I was very pleased and very encouraged by the results,” he said this week. “In choosing Delegate Conway and myself, the voters have opted for the strongest possible leadership team for this district. Uncertain times call for strong leadership and I think that’s what the voters were looking for when they went to the polls on Tuesday.”
Williams was not shy about aligning himself with the incumbent Conway after Tuesday’s primary.
“The general strategy remains the same,” he said. “We’re definitely running as a team. With his experience, especially in fiscal matters, combined with my approach to government, we make the best team to represent this district and the state.”
On the Republican side, the two candidates who emerged from Tuesday’s primary are hoping the voters in Worcester and across the district are ready for change. Democrats have filled the two seats for over a century, McDermott pointed out.
“That’s been a glass ceiling for us,” he said. “I think you have to go back to 1890 to find the last time a Republican held that seat. This is definitely a year to break through that glass ceiling and I think the people of Worcester County and this district are excited about that opportunity.”
McDermott said he was pleased with the results of the primary.
“The results were very positive,” he said. “This is something we’ve been working toward for the last two years, and we’re ready to move on to the next step in the process. With that open seat, people in this district are excited to have some real choices and it showed on Tuesday.”
With the field of candidates winnowed to four, the district’s voters now have a clear choice for who represents them in Annapolis, he said.
“Absolutely there’s a clear choice,” he said. “There’s a clear delineation. They’ve made it quite clear they do not support lowering taxes and reducing the size of government, but that’s what we’re running for. We want to reduce the size and scope of government and lower the tax burden on the people and their businesses and farms and fishing boats and whatever else they do to make a decent living.”
For her part, Pusey said she was pleased to have survived the first cut and is ready to move on to the General Election.
“I have a lot of work to do to get my message out,” she said. “That’s my immediate goal, to let people know who I am and what I believe in. I think I have to stay true to my message.”
That message includes reducing taxes and making the district and state more business friendly.
“I got into this because of the loss of jobs, an increase in the tax burden on individuals and businesses,” she said. “I want to reduce taxes, not raise them, and offer incentives to bring business into the state, not chase business out of the state. I’m a bit overwhelmed and honored at the same time that the folks have responded to my message and put their faith in me.”
Meanwhile, there was far less drama in the District 38 Senate race, where current Delegate James Mathias cruised past Charles Mickey Lehrer in the Democratic primary, collecting 7,396 votes, or 86 percent. However, the drama in the Senate race is yet to come as Tuesday’s primary sets up a highly anticipated rematch of sorts between Mathias and Republican candidate Michael James, who ran unopposed in the Republican primary on Tuesday and garnered 8,609 votes. Mathias and Conway each gained seats over James in the delegate race in 2006.
Mathias this week praised the effort of Lehrer, his challenger in the Democratic primary, and vowed to continue to push on toward the General Election in November.
“We’re just going to continue to work hard,” he said. “That’s my pledge. What was reaffirmed on Tuesday is that the system works. As we move on to November, we’re asking the people to become engaged, to reach out to us and let us know what’s on their minds.”
Mathias said he was looking forward to running against James for the district’s Senate seat in November.
“I congratulate him for being involved and engaged,” he said. “He’s worked hard and the citizens will be able to make a choice. They can look at our candidacies and make a choice, and I’m going to urge everybody to get out and vote.”