SOUTH PORTLAND — City Councilor Tom Coward on Tuesday won the Democratic Party’s nomination for Cumberland County commissioner in District 4.
Coward defeated Boyd Marley, a former state representative from South Portland, by just 35 votes, 1,386 to 1,351. District 4 includes Cape Elizabeth, Westbrook, South Portland and part of Portland.
No other candidates were on the the primary election ballot, so – barring a successful write-in campaign – Coward is expected to be elected to the position in November.
When he does, he’ll have to give up his seat on the City Council, and the city will hold a special election to replace him. Coward ran uncontested for re-election in the city’s District 1 last year.
“I’ve been so looking forward to this,” Coward said Tuesday night after the results came in. “I think the County Commission offers me a chance to do a lot of things I’ve been working on in South Portland, but on a bigger scale.”
Commissioners’ largest responsibility is the crafting of the county budget, which in 2012 tops $41 million. Coward has been involved in county government as a member of its Finance Committee for the past three years.
As might be expected, Coward’s strongest showing was in South Portland, where he defeated Marley 633-588. Coward also won Cape Elizabeth, 370-334. Marley defeated Coward in Westbrook, 312-276, and in Portland’s Precinct 5-2, 117-107.
Coward said he didn’t expect to get so many votes in South Portland.
“I had a lot of people in town say, jokingly I think, that they would vote against me because they wanted me to stay on the council,” he said.
Marley took his loss in stride.
“You go into this knowing there’s a winner and loser, and you’ve got to be philosophical about it,” he said Tuesday night. “I knew I’d never be outworked, so I just put everything out there to see what happens.”
Marley also said that losing wasn’t so bad if it’s losing to a candidate he respects, as he does Coward. Plus, Coward leaving the City Council to take a seat on the County Commission could be an opportunity for Marley to run for public office again.
“I have no plans at this point, but I’m someone who never says never,” he said. “I’ll have to chew on that a bit.”
With all precincts reporting, incumbent Register of Probate John B. O’Brien of Portland defeated challenger Nancy Thurber of Falmouth in the Democratic primary for the county position. O’Brien received 6,332 votes to Thurber’s 5,982.
No Republican was on the ballot in this race, either, which all but guarantees O’Brien’s re-election in November.