- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2006

For up-to-the-minute results, news, and analysis, make WashingtonTimes.com your home for election night.

Maryland voters go to the polls today to elect a U.S. senator and governor in close races that could help decide control of the Senate and whether the Democratic Party maintains its dominance in state politics.

Voters also will elect an attorney general and comptroller, as well as fill every seat in the state Senate and House of Delegates.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

Today’s elections will test whether officials have corrected glitches in the state’s electronic voting machines that caused delays and confusion during September’s primary.

In addition, the final results of close contests might not be known until late this week or next week. Voters have requested nearly 200,000 absentee ballots, which elections officials will begin counting Thursday.

Contending for Maryland’s open U.S. Senate seat are Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Democrat; Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, a Republican; and Green Party candidate Kevin Zeese. They are competing to succeed Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, a Baltimore Democrat who is retiring.

Mr. Steele, the first black elected statewide in Maryland, and Mr. Cardin, a white 10-term congressman from Baltimore, are locked in a neck-and-neck contest in which race has played a key role.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, squares off with Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, in a race that polls show also is a dead heat.

A recent MSNBC poll shows both gubernatorial candidates with 45 percent of the vote.

Mr. Ehrlich’s running mate is Disabilities Secretary Kristen Cox, and Mr. O’Malley is running with Delegate Anthony G. Brown of Prince George’s County.

Mr. Ehrlich, the state’s first Republican governor in more than 30 years, forged with Mr. Steele inroads to black communities that helped make their party competitive for the first time in a generation in Maryland, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2-to-1.

Blacks, who account for nearly 30 percent of Maryland’s population, traditionally support Democrats. Many have complained that the Democratic Party has taken them for granted.

Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Cardin have tried to capitalize on a national anti-Republican mood and link their opponents to President Bush, who is unpopular in the state.

In the comptroller race, voters will choose between Delegate Peter Franchot, Montgomery Democrat; Anne M. McCarthy, Baltimore Republican; and write-in candidate Bob Auerbach of Greenbelt.

Mr. Franchot’s win in the Democratic primary in September unseated Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, a political icon with 50 years in elected office, including a 16-year stint as Baltimore mayor and two terms as governor.

Today’s elections also will decide the successor to retiring Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., a 47-year veteran of state Democratic politics who has served as attorney general for the past 19 years.

Seeking the state’s top law-enforcement job are Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler, a Democrat, and Frederick County State’s Attorney Scott L. Rolle, a Republican.

Mr. Gansler has weathered a court challenge to his eligibility for attorney general, which requires 10 years of experience practicing law in Maryland. The Court of Appeals last week called for the lawsuit to be dismissed.

Meanwhile, voters in Montgomery County will elect a new county executive. The contenders are Isiah “Ike” Leggett, a Democrat; Chuck Floyd, a Republican; and Robin Ficker, who is unaffiliated.

In Prince George’s County, Jack B. Johnson, a Democrat, is seeking re-election as county executive and does not face a Republican challenger.

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