The 2014 elections in Howard County will offer a plethora of intriguing storylines, most notably a possible run for governor by term-limited County Executive Ken Ulman.
But the retirement announcements last week of two state delegates and a state senator have opened the door for more political jockeying and speculation in advance of 2014.
The retirements of Del. Steve DeBoy, Del. Jimmy Malone, and Sen. Jim Robey, all Democrats, create three open seats in the state delegation that will not have an incumbent candidate
A fourth opening arises as Del. Liz Bobo, a Columbia Democrat representing District 12B, announced last year that she would not seek reelection in 2014. The addition of District 9B, covering much of Ellicott City, to the county creates a fifth opening.
A sixth opening without an incumbent candidate in the state delegation is expected when Sen. Allan Kittleman, a West Friendship Republican, makes his campaign for Howard County executive official.
If Del. Guy Guzzone, a Columbia Democrat, chooses to pursue the county executive seat, mark that down as seven new faces in the soon to be 12-member state delegation.
All of this movement at the state level has a trickle-down effect to the Howard County Council, which was expecting at least one new member with Courtney Watson, an Ellicott City Democrat, preparing for a county executive campaign.
But council members Calvin Ball and Mary Kay Sigaty have both been mentioned as potential candidates for state office.
Ball is being mentioned as a candidate to fill Robey's seat if Guzzone chooses to run for county executive or remain in the House of Delegates. Sigaty has been widely mentioned as a potential District 12 delegate ever since Bobo announced her retirement last year.
Ball said he is "strongly considering" a campaign for Robey's seat in 2014.
"I enjoy serving our community in elected office and I think that the Senate would be, should I choose to serve there, a very fulfilling place to continue serving the community," he said.
Sigaty said the news that incumbents DeBoy and Malone would not seek reelection was a "game changer," but she has not yet determined what her political future will be.
"The question I ask myself is 'Where can I do the most good,' and I have not answered that question fully yet," Sigaty said.
Columbia Democrats Clarence Lam and Terri Hill already have announced their candidacy for District 12.
So when can we expect there to be a bit more clarity as to who will be on the primary ballot in June 2014?
Michael McPherson, chair of the Howard County Democratic Central Committee, said he expects some official candidacy announcements to be made pretty soon.
"We'll probably have some movement on these slots in the next two to three weeks," McPherson said, adding that he expects the races to be clearer by Memorial Day at the latest.
Loretta Shields, chair of the Howard County Republican Party, said the Republicans will be focusing on Districts 12 and 13 with the retirements announced last week.
"When you have open seats, it's a lot easier than going against an entrenched Democrat," she said.
McPherson said the county executive race will "probably be the most interesting in 2014," but looking at registration numbers and past history, he's confident it will go to a Democrat.
"Regardless of who the candidate is, that seat will remain in Democratic hands," he said.
Shields said every seat is going to be a challenge for any candidate, but she feels "strongly" that a Republican could become county executive.
"With the right candidate, oh yeah, we're going to take that seat back," she said.