The 2014 election is still two years away, but it's on the minds of some in Howard and Baltimore counties this week, ever since state Del. Liz Bobo announced last week that she plans to retire after her term is up.
It's far too early to know for sure who will run for the open District 12 seat in 2014. But some people have said they are considering it, including Howard County Council Chairwoman Mary Kay Sigaty, who like Bobo is a Columbia Democrat.
"I've always been interested in the potential of being a state legislator, but it wasn't something I was going to do if Liz ran again," she said. "(Bobo's retirement) certainly opens a door, and I'm going to have to think about what I'm going to do."
Should Sigaty run, that begs another question: Who will run for her District 4 council seat?
Because parts of Sigaty's council district overlap with District 12, candidates who may be considering the delegate seat are likely to wait to see what her move is. If Sigaty runs for delegate, newcomers could run for council.
Bobo is the sole delegate from District 12B, which covers west Columbia and parts of Ellicott City. Halethorpe Democrats Steven DeBoy and James Malone, both of whom have said they plan to run for re-election in 2014, currently represent District 12A, which includes parts of Elkridge, Ellicott City and Jessup, as well as parts of Baltimore County.
But in 2014, District 12 will no longer have two subdistricts. Whoever runs will have to campaign in the entire district, which is represented in the state Senate by Sen. Ed Kasemeyer, a Columbia Democrat.
"If the redistricting had left Liz's district the way it was I'm sure there would be several people who would want to try to run," Kasemeyer said. But the elimination of the subdistricts, he said, creates uncertainty, as the entire district has a far different make-up from District 12B alone.
"I'm not sure what's going to happen exactly," Kasemeyer said.
Originally, the district change inspired Bobo to want to run again. She said she thought, "With this change in the district, how are we going to get a liberal Democrat from Columbia?"
She reconsidered, Bobo said, after realizing she can continue to make contributions outside of public office. However, she said she still hopes "a progressive Democrat from west Columbia" and someone who would "be willing to bear the consequences from going against the trend" will take over her seat.
"A couple of people have talked to me (about running), but it's up to them what they want to do," she noted, declining to give names.
Lam, Hill eye runs
Besides Sigaty, at least two Democrats from Columbia are considering running: Howard County Democratic Central Committee member Clarence Lam and Thurgood Marshall Democratic Club founding member Terri Hill.
Lam, 31, works at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. He serves on the Harper's Choice Village Board, as well as boards for Healthy Howard and the Community Action Council. Lam is also president of the Young Democrats of Howard County and statewide director of outreach for the Asian American community for the Maryland Democratic Party.
"As a public health physician I have made a commitment to help people," he said. "I'm considering a run because I am committed to continuing to serve the people in the community."
Hill, 53, is a plastic surgeon who has been involved in politics since her teenage years. She has worked on several political campaigns, including Bobo's 2010 re-election race and President Barack Obama's presidential campaigns.
"It just seems that it's time to be part of the team that's actually in the game, rather than on the bench," Hill said.
Hill said she would be an elected official who will listen to varied perspectives and make independent decisions. "I was inspired somewhat by Liz in that regard," Hill said. "She has shown herself to be an independent thinker."
The last Democrat to run against Bobo was John Bailey, of Columbia, who lost to Bobo in the 2010 primary election. Bailey recently moved to Sarasota, Fla.
On the Republican side, Lansdowne resident Joseph Hooe, who unsuccessfully ran for a District 12A seat in 2002, 2006 and 2010, said he "will take a serious look" at another run in District 12.
"I'm very passionate about public service, about local business and about our communities and I remain very interested in serving our communities, our state," he said. "At the moment I'm interested in the 2014 race, but I haven't made a decision on it yet."
Hooe, a 43-year-old who owns The Tire Network, in Baltimore, noted Friday: "The phone has just been ringing off the hook over this lately, especially today."
Other Baltimore County Republicans who have run in District 12A in the past, such as Catonsville residents Albert Nalley and David Aughenbaugh, do not even have the option to run for the open seat as they have been redistricted into District 44B.
In Howard County, the last Republican to run against Bobo was Robert Wheatley, of Ellicott City. Wheatley could not be reached for comment.
While some potential candidates have said they are considering running for the open District 12 seat, others have said they are not.
"It's not something I'm considering doing at this point," Columbia resident Alan Klein said, noting the election is still two years away. Klein ran against Sigaty for her council seat in 2010 but lost in the Democratic primary.
Meanwhile, Bobo's decision could also affect incumbents Malone and DeBoy.
Malone, who said he's "definitely running," noted than the plan had been for him, DeBoy, Bobo and Kasemeyer to run together as a team. He said he plans to get together with DeBoy and Kasemeyer to talk strategy, but he really doesn't know who might consider running for Bobo's seat.
Whatever happens, Malone said: "I'm going to work my tail off.
"I have 16 new precincts. ... I have a lot of friends that live in Columbia that are going to help me, a lot of close friends out there, and I'm going to work very, very hard to get re-elected in 2014."
DeBoy could not be reached for comment.