- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 8, 2008

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Democrat Frank Kratovil defeated Republican Andy Harris to win a seat that has been held by the GOP for 18 years in Maryland’s tight 1st District congressional race.

With the first of two rounds of absentee ballots counted, Kratovil had 49 percent of the vote to 48 percent for Harris and 2 percent for Libertarian Richard Davis. Kratovil’s election-night lead of 915 votes more than doubled to 2,003 after the first absentee ballot count was completed Friday.

About 4,800 provisional ballots will be counted Monday and an unknown number of absentee ballots will arrive by mail for a final count Nov. 14. But it would be highly unlikely for Harris to reverse the trend in which he has been losing nine of the 12 counties in the district.

Kratovil said in a statement Friday evening that he was “clearly encouraged by where the numbers stand.”

He said, “my top priority is making sure that every vote is counted and every voice is heard, and there will be plenty of time for celebration afterwards.”

Kratovil then stopped just short of claiming victory, saying, “In the meantime, I’ll continue to make the necessary preparations to ensure for a smooth and seamless transition once all of the votes are counted and the outcome is official.”

Chris Meekins, Harris’ campaign manager, said his side was waiting to see results on Monday.

“At this point, we want to see the number of absentees, provisional and military ballots that remain, and on Monday or Tuesday morning Andy will be releasing an official statement,” Meekins said.

The victory gives Democrats 255 House seats, compared with 173 for the GOP. Democrats captured GOP-held seats in every region of the country in Tuesday’s elections.

The 1st District incumbent, Republican Wayne Gilchrest, lost the February primary in a crowded five-way race and crossed party lines to endorse Kratovil.

Democrats will hold seven of Maryland’s eight congressional seats.

The AP called Kratovil the winner after surveying counties statewide to determine the number of outstanding provisional ballots. An AP analysis found Harris could not win enough votes among those ballots to close the 2,003-vote deficit.

Provisional ballots are cast when poll workers can’t find voters’ names in their records. The ballots are counted only if it is later determined the voters were eligible.

There are still more absentee ballots to be counted, because people could vote by absentee ballot if their applications were postmarked by Election Day. Those ballots must arrive at county election offices by Nov. 14, but their numbers are not expected to be as large as absentees already counted.

The race offered starkly different candidates.

Kratovil, the Queen Anne County state’s attorney, cast himself as a moderate, capable of reaching across party lines to address difficult environmental and agricultural concerns in a district that includes all of Maryland’s Eastern Shore as well as portions of the counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford.

Harris, an anesthesiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, is a state senator and one of the most conservative members of the General Assembly.

Davis, a dentist from Hurlock, may have played the spoiler for Harris. During two debates, Davis expressed positions close to those of the Republican. For example, both men oppose much federal involvement in education and both opposed the $700 billion economic bailout for financial institutions.

While the district has slightly more Democratic than Republican registered voters, it has leaned to the GOP for nearly two decades. But the loss of the moderate Gilchrest and tough times for the Republican Party nationwide combined to open the door to Kratovil.

Sensing vulnerability, Democrats made the race a priority, and Kratovil received about $1.8 million in help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The money and the unusual endorsement by an incumbent from the other party helped give Kratovil the lift he needed.

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