Mathias’ Lead Grows In Shore Senate Race

BERLIN – While stopping well short of conceding anything, Republican challenger Michael James this week acknowledged the growing gap between he and Democratic candidate James Mathias for the vacant District 38 State Senate seat could be too large to overcome as the process of counting absentee ballots continues.

When the dust settled after a whirlwind General Election last Tuesday, Mathias led James by a mere 156 votes, leaving the outcome undecided and at the hands of a lengthy absentee, provisional and overseas ballot count. After the absentee ballots started coming in from neighboring Wicomico late last week, Mathias’ lead had grown to 247 with hundreds of ballots still to count.

On Wednesday, the vote totals again changed as elections officials in District 38, which includes all of Worcester and Somerset counties, along with a significant portion of Wicomico County, began counting the next batch of absentee ballots. Worcester elections officials counted 180 absentee ballots on Wednesday, with James collecting 67 more and Mathias adding 97 to his vote count. However, a similar process was going on in Wicomico and Somerset, and Mathias continued to add to his lead in the race.

At the end of the day on Wednesday, Mathias had collected 23,234 total votes across the district, while James’ total had climbed to 22,544, leaving the Democratic delegate with a 568-vote lead. However, as many as 171 absentee, provisional and overseas ballots remain to be counted in Worcester with several hundred, or as many as 1,000, still to be counted in the three counties that make up the district.

While neither candidate was ready to celebrate or concede anything this week, it appears the writing is on the wall for what turned out to be everything as advertised in the district’s state senate race.

“Respectively, the process continues to work and it looks like it’s moving in a good direction,” said Mathias on Wednesday. “We’ve still got a good bit of counting still to go.”

Mathias took the opportunity of Veterans Day to acknowledge the sacrifices made to ensure the political process is preserved.

“As we prepare to celebrate Veterans Day, we need to thank the men and women of the armed services who have provided us with the freedom to exercise our most important duty,” he said. “The right to vote and decide elections is a sacred right and we need to thank them for that. We also need to thank the men and women on the elections boards for keeping the process in tact.”

For his part, James acknowledged the growing gap, but was willing to patiently await the end of the process.

“We realize at this point it would be a long shot, but we have to get through the process,” he said. “At this point, we’re just trying to figure out what is left to be counted. I think by mid-day tomorrow [Friday], we’ll have a much clearer picture.”

James said he was closely monitoring the absentee and provisional vote count process, while asking for some clarification on a couple of election day issues. For example, a damaged voting card was discovered in one precinct, while a couple of voting machines in others suffered dead batteries. He said he wasn’t suggesting any wrongdoing, but wanted to ensure the process was thorough and accurate. In the meantime, the Republican challenger is content to ride out the process.

“We’re a little bit closer to the finish line,” James said. “Obviously, things have not been breaking my way, but we’re not dead yet.”