A ballot drop box in northwest Baltimore. Photo by Marcus Dieterle.

While some races have already been called in Maryland’s primary election — including the nominees for Attorney General and Comptroller — it could be awhile before there is a clear winner in several important races.

With many races close, mail-in ballots will begin to be counted Thursday, then provisional ballots starting July 27, followed by the remaining mail-in ballots that arrived late.

State officials expect to certify the results of the election during the week of Aug. 8.

As more primary results come in, here are five races to watch:

Moore leading Democratic governor’s race, followed by Perez and Franchot

Prior to the election, polls indicated three likely frontrunners in the Democratic race for governor: state Comptroller Peter Franchot; former labor secretary and DNC head Tom Perez; and author and non-profit executive Wes Moore.

Well, it appears they were right.

Currently leading the trio is Moore with 137,869 votes, accounting for 36.75% of ballots that have been counted so far. As of 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, 2048 out of 2074 election day precincts have reported results. (A reminder: hundreds of thousands of ballots still need to be counted.)

Following Moore, Perez is in second with 102,600 votes (27.35%) and Franchot in third with 73,492 votes (19.59%).

Outside of those three, the remaining candidates in the crowded Democratic field have received less than 5% of votes each.

Whomever emerges as the winner of the Democratic race will face off in November against Trump-backed Del. Dan Cox, who won the Republican nomination for governor. The Associated Press called the race shortly after 11 p.m. Tuesday.

Cox, who has denied the results of the 2020 election, organized for protesters to be bussed to Washington, D.C. for the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6 that preceded the Capitol insurrection.

Cox’s main rival was Kelly Schulz, former commerce secretary in the Hogan administration, who received Hogan’s endorsement for governor.

Schulz has not conceded, though Baltimore Banner reporter Pamela Wood tweeted that an advisor for Schulz’s campaign said Republican voters “committed ritualized mass suicide.”

Wood also reported that Hogan spokesman Mike Ricci said Hogan will not vote for Cox in the general election.

During the 2020 presidential election, Hogan wrote in the late former President Ronald Reagan instead of giving his vote to the Republican nominee Donald Trump or the Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Bates out in front of Mosby and Vignarajah in Baltimore state’s attorney race

Baltimore City’s state’s attorney race this year was a rematch of the 2018 election, with the same three candidates: State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and attorneys Ivan Bates and Thiru Vignarajah.

But much has changed in the four years since the candidates last went head to head.

Mosby is facing federal charges for perjury and making false statements on loan applications to purchase properties in Florida, to which she pleaded not guilty. She is scheduled to go to trial Sept. 19.

In June, independent journalist Justine Barron published accounts from some of Vignarajah’s former subordinates who said he demeaned and threatened them.

The Baltimore Sun later published their own article with former subordinates, including one who said Vignarajah scared her by taking her phone while she was in the car with him and speeding toward a wall before stopping the car. Vignarajah declined to comment to the Sun.

In Baltimore City, where 284 out of 296 election day precincts have reported results, the state’s attorney race is tight, with Bates currently in the lead with 19,487 votes (40.99%).

Mosby earned 15,389 votes (32.37%) of those counted so far, and Vignarajah has 12,662 votes (26.64%).

There is no Republican challenger in the Baltimore state’s attorney race, so whoever wins the Democratic race is expected to be Baltimore’s next state’s attorney.

Tight race between Leonard and Shellenberger for Baltimore County state’s attorney

Incumbent Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger, is neck and neck with his challenger, attorney Robbie Leonard.

Just 860 votes separated them, as of 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. (In Baltimore County, 34 of 34 election day precincts have reported results, though like the rest of Maryland mail-in and provisional ballots still need to be counted.)

So far, Leonard has earned 25,123 votes (50.87%) while Shellenberger has earned 24,263 votes (49.13%).

Shellenberger sought his fifth term as Baltimore County’s top prosecutor.

Baltimore Banner reporters Adam Willis and Taylor DeVille reported that super PACs spent big money in Maryland races, including the Baltimore County state’s attorney race.

The Maryland Justice & Public Safety super PAC dropped more than half a million dollars on political advertising in support of Leonard.

In the Republican race, James A. Haynes has 13,109 votes (55.15%) and Deborah Hill has 10,662 (44.85%)

Baltimore County could get another Black council member

The Baltimore County Council has only had two Black members in its history — one of them being current Council Chairman Julian Jones — and never more than one at a time.

But that could change this year.

Real estate agent Shafiyq Hinton, who is Black, is in a tight race with Towson community leader Mike Ertel, who is white, for the Democratic nomination to fill the District 6 seat of outgoing Councilwoman Cathy Bevins.

Hinton has earned 2,701 votes (38.89%) and Ertel has earned 2,686 votes (38.67%). Also running on the Democratic side are Caitlin Klimm-Kellner (19.82%) and Preston R. Snedegar (2.62%).

Bevins announced in March that she would not seek reelection. Bevins, Jones and County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. all endorsed Hinton for the District 6 seat.

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will face off in the general election against Towson University professor Tony Campbell, who is also Black and ran unopposed in the Republican primary.

Crystal Francis, who is Black and is the chair of the Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee, ran for the District 5 seat.

Francis has a decisive lead over her Democratic opponent, Nick Johnson. Francis currently has 3,074 votes (67.41%) and Johnson has 1,486 votes (32.59%).

The winner of the Democratic race will likely face incumbent Republican Councilman David Marks. Marks currently holds 5,087 votes (80.48%), while his Republican challenger Philip DePalo has 1,234 votes (19.52%).

During the redistricting process, residents sought to create a second majority-Black district in Baltimore County in hopes that the council membership would better reflect the county’s racial makeup. But in March, a judge accepted a redrawn Baltimore County council map with one majority-Black district.

Baltimore County saw an increase in the number of Black candidates running this year. In addition to Hinton and Campbell, other Black candidates in the county included Danielle Singley, a member of the Randallstown NAACP, in District 1; and former Baltimore County NAACP president Tony Fugett in District 2

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich fighting to retain his seat

When Marc Elrich and David Blair last faced off to be the Democratic party’s nominee for Montgomery County Executive in 2018, Elrich won by just 80 votes. Elrich went on to win the general election.

Once again, Elrich and Blair went up against each other this year. So far, the race is tight.

Elrich currently has 26,997 votes (38.01%) while his close opponent David T. Blair has 28,059 votes (39.51%). Also running in the Democratic race are Hans Riemer with 20.52% of the vote and Peter James with 1.96%.

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at marcus@baltimorefishbowl.com...