If David Blake Melton had a tag line, he says it would be "not your average Republican."
"Fair and balanced – that's me," added Melton, a Fort Meade defense contractor who lives in Ellicott City.
Melton is running for the County Council's first district, a race already packed on the Democratic side with four candidates. As a Republican, Melton will face just one opponent in the primary June 24: fellow Ellicott City resident Kevin Schmidt.
But in moderate District 1 – which current Democratic Council member Courtney Watson won by a 52-47 margin in the past two elections – Melton said he wouldn't feel out of place.
"I'll look at every issue, weigh its pros and cons and vote accordingly," he said. "I'm not going to vote on partisan lines just because. That's an abuse of power. It's not helpful."
Schmidt, too, has made it a point to say he will reach across the aisle and try to work with traditionally Democratic groups, such as unions.
Melton said he aligns most closely with the Republican party on gun rights issues, but less so on taxation – though, he said, it's not that he's a fan of taxes, either.
"I'm all for reducing taxes, but reducing taxes just for the sake of reducing taxes – I don't know that that's such a good idea," he said. "It's always a trade-off."
Though Melton, a military veteran, said for most of his life he's had "no real drive" to be in politics, he decided to run to try to serve the community on a local scale.
"I've always had this kind of [notion of] community service," he said. "I finally found a great place to settle down with my family and just thought this was another opportunity to serve the community, versus serving the nation in a different capacity.
"You hear people complain about government at all levels, yet they don't do anything about it," he said. "So I just figured, 'why not? If not me, then who?' "
Melton, 45, said he wanted to "try to keep the community on an even keel" – a goal that, for him, finds its foundation in a strong educational system.
Though he has lived abroad and across the nation, from Hawaii to Georgia, as part of his military service, Melton said he chose Howard County as a permanent residence "specifically" because of the schools.
"I want to maintain the high quality of education we have in Howard County," he said. To do so, he added, the school system needs adequate funding and "honest and fair evaluations" of teachers.
Melton also pointed to the Common Core, school district rezoning and school overcrowding as potential areas of concern for the county, though he said he would like to look at each on a case-by-case basis rather than announcing an opinion right away.
"I don't know where my opinion is, to be honest," he said of the Common Core, a new set of educational guidelines that rolled out in Maryland classrooms this school year. "I do feel that there needs to be a common set of criteria that everyone needs to be judged against. Is that the Common Core? Is it close? Are the teachers prepared for it, are they getting the training that they need? Are teachers teaching to the Common Core and nothing further?
"There's a lot of controversy about that, there's data, good and bad – it's something to keep on top of," he said.
Melton said he understood parent frustration over school zoning. "People move into a specific area for the schools quite often," he said. "So you have people move in [for specific schools] and then you zone them out – that creates a lot of strife. It needs to be balanced and equitable."
Melton said he was also "sensitive" to concerns about development.
"I really like how Howard County has a good mixture of rural and commercial/residential… I would hate to see us run down a path of giving up all our natural resources so that we can tax to get quick revenue for services and then we have nothing. The western part of the county has got a great diversity. I'd like to see that managed well."