State Roundup, July 6, 2018

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RACES UP IN THE AIR: Jennifer Barrios and Rachel Chason of the Post write that the June 26 primary results have been long determined for most Maryland races, but it’s still undecided in several close contests in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. The Democratic nomination for the Montgomery county executive is coming down to absentee and provisional ballots, with two men — a wealthy businessman and a longtime progressive politician — locked in a close battle. In Prince George’s County, all eyes are on two County Council races.

HOWARD COUNCIL RACE TIGHTENS: Four votes separate the two Democratic candidates in the District 1 Howard County Council race, Kate Macgill reports for the Howard County Times. Jon Weinstein, the incumbent in the district that includes Ellicott City, has 3,167 votes and challenger Liz Walsh, a newcomer to county politics, has 3,163 after Thursday’s count of provisional ballots. Weinstein, the sole incumbent on the five-member council eligible for re-election, held a 37-vote lead, but Walsh gained ground Thursday when provisional ballots were tallied.

STATE-FUNDED BUS SERVICE ‘FALLS SHORT:’ The Baltimore bus system that was revamped a year ago “falls well short” of the state’s plan for more reliable bus service, according to a study released Thursday by the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, Katherine Shaver of the Post reports. The state launched BaltimoreLink last June, two years after Gov. Larry Hogan (R) canceled a proposed Red Line light-rail line for the city, calling it a “wasteful boondoggle.” The $135 million redesign of the city’s state-run bus system included new bus-only lanes downtown, priority for buses at traffic signals, and more frequent service in some areas.

SPORTS BETTING SPECIAL SESSION? Could odds be improving for the chances of a special legislative session on sports betting? That’s the question being asked by some lawmakers, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. The answer, privately, is “possibly.” A deadline looms for getting a referendum question on the November ballot as Maryland faces the possibility of being left behind — perhaps by as much as two years — while neighboring states make a play for bettors’ money.

UM TO CONTINUE PUSH FOR DIVERSITY: Maryland’s public universities should continue to be able to use existing race-conscious factors in their admissions process despite the Trump administration’s announcement it was rescinding previous guidance designed to encourage schools to consider race in admissions decisions, Tim Curtis of the Daily Record reports. The administration’s actions could disincentivize universities from considering race in admissions, but University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert Caret said the system’s commitment to a diverse student body would continue.

NEWSROOM OBSERVE MOMENT OF SILENCE: Newsrooms around the world observed a moment of silence at 2:33 p.m. Eastern time Thursday — one week after a gunman opened fire in the Capital Gazette newspaper’s Annapolis office and killed five employees. Justin Moyer and Rachel Chason of the Post write that at the Post, an email reminder about the moment of silence went out at 2:32 p.m. A minute later, phone interviews ended and keyboard clacking fell silent. Some reporters gathered around television screens as cable news aired a live feed from the Capital Gazette newsroom. At 2:34 p.m., the moment ended and work resumed.

  • For as long as anyone can remember, they rang the bell. Capital Gazette editors rang their newsroom bell to summon staff and plan stories, Tim Prudente and Erica Green write in the Sun. Their tradition stretched back decades, but would never be the same, “Starting with today,” Editor Rick Hutzell told his staff, the survivors. “Every time we ring that bell, we’re going to think of our friends.” And yet, their bell rested back in their newsroom, now a crime scene.

RAMOS MAY HAVE SENT CARD TO EX-CAPITAL STAFFER: A Norfolk Virginian-Pilot editor who was harassed for years by the man charged in the killings of five journalists in Maryland received a letter Thursday that police believe was sent by the suspect. Gordon Rago of the Virginian-Pilot writes that Eric Hartley, who once worked for The Capital in Annapolis, found the pink, card-sized envelope in his newsroom mailbox on Thursday. The return address on the envelope was simply “anonymous source.”

RETURN THE DEATH PENALTY: In a column for MarylandReporter, Towson University professor Richard Vatz urges the return of the death penalty to Maryland following the murders of five staff members of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis on Thursday, June 28.

DELEGATE CANDIDATE’s BROTHER ARRESTED: A Maryland delegate candidate’s brother has been transported to a hospital and charged with assault after a seven-hour standoff with police last Friday morning, according to a county police report. Jason Freeman Bagnall, 48, was taken into Anne Arundel County police custody and transferred to a hospital for evaluation after he threatened his sister, Heather Bagnall-Tudball, with a shotgun and ranted about conspiracies and mass shootings, according to a police report. Bagnall-Tudball is a candidate for delegate in District 33. She is running her campaign under Heather Bagnall, Chase Cook reports for the Annapolis Capital.