The end of the election season last week brought about a cleanup of sorts across the country — signs removed from yards and evenings of television without campaign ads.
That serenity lasted all of four days for residents of northern Baltimore County, where state Sen. Jim Brochin, of Towson, was pounding the pavement on Nov. 10, planting seeds he hopes will lead to his re-election in 2014.
The 42nd District, where Brochin serves, was geographically expanded during the state legislative redistricting, and now includes traditionally Republican precincts in Sparks, Jacksonville and other north county communities, reaching all the way north to the Pennsylvania line and west to Carroll County.
The district was predominantly focused in Towson before redistricting, a process that's done every 10 years to satisfy new U.S. Census figures. Brochin will still retain a good bit of Towson in the new district, but he lost part of his base there.
On Saturday, the Democratic senator hit the pavement to introduce himself to his new constituents.
"Is that better than nothing?" he said about his door-to-door visits, commenting after a conversation with a resident in Sparks. "I think it is. It makes you more of a person instead of just a new name."
Brochin's travels came just one day after the Maryland Court of Appeals threw out an appeal that he and fellow Sen. Delores Kelley had filed about the redistricting.
The two had argued that the map drawn by state leaders didn't give due regard to the city-county boundary in an effort to maintain Baltimore city's representation.
One traditional city district, the 46th District, was expanded through redistricting into Baltimore County, which in turn shifted Kelley's 10th District into northwest Baltimore County and shifted the 42nd District northward. (See maps.)
The Brochin/Kelley appeal was heard on Nov. 7 and dismissed two days later by the Court of Appeals. It was a turn of events that Brochin said reminded him of the graduate school rejection letter from George Washington University that arrived in his mailbox three days after he sent in his application.
"You give it your best shot, pick up and move on," he said.
State Sen. Joseph Getty (R-5th District), who represented northern Baltimore County before the redistricting, said Brochin ran the risk of alienating his new constituents by challenging the new lines.
Getty said that since the redistricting decision was announced last spring, his old district has been curious about the process — and about who might challenge Brochin.
Yet Del. Steve Lafferty, a Democrat who remains in the 42A sub-district rooted in Towson, said Brochin is one of the hardest campaigners he has seen, and he connects with voters well. Of Brochin's chances of winning over voters, Lafferty said, "I don't think it's a bridge too far."
Lafferty said he believes Brochin can overcome unfavorable voter registration numbers for Democrats with shoe leather.
Getty acknowledged Brochin's reputation as a dogged campaigner and said although Brochin isn't as conservative as his new constituents, "that race will not be a cakewalk for a Republican (challenger)."
So on Saturday morning Brochin hit the trail, approaching his new constituents on Far Corners Loop in Sparks.
He trumpeted himself as a fiscal conservative, handing everyone who answered their door a copy of a newspaper article from 2007 that touted him as the only Democrat to filibuster against the governor's tax increases, joining Senate Republicans.
He told them that as an insurance broker who works on full commission, he lives within his means and expects the state to do the same. It was a message Republicans on his walk sheets greeted with nods.
On other issues, Brochin played to his more rural audience, at times touting his record on green space, which he said he has defended for the past 10 years.
When one woman brought up Question 6, the ballot question in last week's election that allowed for gay marriage, Brochin pivoted to Question 7, which expanded table games and will pave the way for a new casino in Prince George's County. The senator supported the gay marriage referendum, but he channeled the woman's frustration toward the gambling law, which he publicly opposed.
After hitting much of the Far Corners neighborhood, he headed east on Phoenix road to finish in a Jacksonville neighborhood.
There, he caught many residents doing yard work and chatted with them curbside. Not everyone was receptive. One woman claimed to be a Canadian citizen, others preferred to continue going about their business as they were.
Yet even at a time when many have been exhausted by politics, many were pleasantly surprised to see him in the first place.
Larry Trainor, 61, was receptive to Brochin's message of living within your means and the responsibilities of elected officials, and he admired Brochin for being out so soon after the previous election.
Frank Giannino, 48, said that it was the first time in the 14 years he lived in his home that an elected official had visited.
As with many Brochin spoke with, Giannino is a registered Republican, but said he voted more as an independent last week.
"It's time for the politicians to stop fighting with each other and start worrying about the country," Giannino said.