Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown won the Democratic primary for governor of Maryland on Tuesday, defeating Attorney General Doug Gansler and Del. Heather Mizeur for the nomination.
With 7 percent of precincts reporting, Brown had 59 percent of the vote. Gansler had 20 percent, and Mizeur had 19 percent.
The victory marked a major step forward toward Brown becoming Maryland's first black governor in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin. Brown also would be the state's first lieutenant governor to win the governorship.
The primary win also is significant to Gov. Martin O'Malley, who would benefit from having an ally in the governor's office as he considers running for president in 2016. O'Malley is limited to two terms, and his final term ends in January.
O'Malley quickly sent out an email after Brown's victory to urge people to donate to his general election campaign.
"It's important that we come together and get Anthony's general election campaign off to a strong start," the email said, citing progress he and Brown have made on raising the minimum wage, legalizing same-sex marriage and approving gun-control legislation.
This year's primary was unusually early for Maryland. It was moved from September to June to comply with federal rules requiring states to send ballots to members of the military and other Americans overseas.
Meanwhile, Republicans were choosing between real estate broker Larry Hogan, Del. Ron George, Harford County Executive David Craig and Charles County businessman Charles Lollar.
After record-high turnout was reported in the state for early voting that started June 12 and ended Thursday, turnout appeared to be light at polling places. State elections officials said 141,590 people cast ballots in this early voting period, compared with 77,288 in 2010, the first year of early voting in Maryland. In western Maryland, election officials at two polling stations inside Bester Elementary School in Hagerstown reported relatively low turnout on Tuesday with less than 3 percent of eligible voters by noon.
"We think it's very light," said Jeff Powers, the chief election judge for the two polling stations.
In the Democratic primary, Tefta Karagjozi said she voted for Brown. The 60-year-old special education teacher, who lives near the state capital of Annapolis, said she appreciated the investment that Brown and O'Malley have made in education.
"The fact that they know we need the money, and we need the funds, and we need the programs -- I think that's the key, so that clinched it for me," she said.
In the GOP primary race for governor, Bill Day said he voted for Craig. "I think that he probably has the most appeal among a large portion of Maryland Republicans, and I think he's probably the most competitive candidate in a general election," Day said after voting in Annapolis.
Jim Triebwasser said he cast his ballot for Hogan, who served as secretary of appointments in former Gov. Robert Ehrlich's administration between 2003 and 2007.
"I see that he's going to straighten out the mess that we have," Triebwasser said. "There's just too much being given away. Taxes are going up, and I want to see more people be more self-sufficient in their lives."
Bill Barkley said he voted for George, an Annapolis jewelry store owner who has served two terms in the Maryland House of Delegates.
"He's a business owner, and so he's been there, and that's important," said Barkley, 71.
Nine precincts in Montgomery County reported errors with electronic poll books used to look up voter names. Affected voters were allowed to cast a provisional ballot. A county elections official said Tuesday afternoon that replacement electronic poll books were delivered.