Redistricting, early voting and the flood of interest from a presidential election year has made March a critical month for candidates vying for positions in Congress, perhaps none as hectic as the 8th Congressional District race.
Carroll County has previous been squarely in the 6th Congressional District, represented by longtime Rep. Roscoe Bartlett.
But redistricting has changed all that, splitting the county between the 1st and 8th Congressional seats. A large of portion of Carroll is in the 8th — along with much of Frederick County and slivers of Montgomery County all the way south to the Washington line.
That change has the Democratic incumbent, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County, scrambling to learn something about the area he'd like to represent after November and has left a field of Republican contenders with high hopes they could snatch the seat to the GOP side.
Both parties have been on the campaign trail. Though he faces little challenge in the April 3 primary — only fellow Montgomery County resident George English is on the ballot — Van Hollen breezed through Westminster and Sykesville March 13 as part of a whirlwind, whistle-stop "listening tour" of Carroll County, courting votes and learning the lay of the land.
In an area he was admittedly unfamiliar with, the Warfield Cultural and Commerce Center in Sykesville, he toured the grounds with former Sykesville Mayor Jonathan Herman and stated as he gazed at the regal brick buildings and the open spaces beyond, "It's quite a place, isn't it?"
Hot spot for GOP?
Two days later, three Republican candidates vying in the GOP primary were essentially saying the same thing: that Carroll County is quite a place and one that Van Hollen doesn't know well enough to represent.
At a March 15 forum at the Winfield Volunteer Fire Department Hall, presented by the Carroll County Republican Central Committee, Ken Timmerman and Gus Alzona, both from Montgomery County, and Carroll resident Dave Wallace, were the three GOP candidates who spoke and answered questions.
Shelly Skolnick, of Montgomery County, who has also registered as a candidate, was not in attendance.
Green Party candidate George Gluck, also of Montgomery County, introduced himself at the meeting, but did not speak.
Other than Wallace, a South Carroll High School graduate and resident of Finksburg, the GOP primary race is essentially a getting-to-know-you party.
"As a Montgomery County Republican, I feel liberated to be here in Carroll County," Timmerman told the audience.
Timmerman is, by profession, an investigative reporter, author of fiction and non-fiction books and a self-described "international religious freedom guardian." According to his website, the Kensington resident has served as a Middle East correspondent for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other publications.
He has also served as head of the Maryland Taxpayers Association.
Gus Alzona, a CPA who was born in the Philippines, grew up in the Washington area and now lives in Bethesda.
He said he's running on a platform of "Freedom, Faith, Peace and Prosperity," which includes securing U.S. borders, lowering gas prices and auditing the Federal Reserve System.
Wallace previously worked at the National Institutes of Health and now owns and manages Chesapeake Kitchen Wholesalers, a company in Randallstown.
According to his website, Wallace's issues center on U.S. energy independence, reforming taxes, securing borders and protecting Social Security and Second Amendment rights.
All three candidates were unanimous in their critiques of the administration of President Barack Obama and of their prospective opponent, Van Hollen.