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Campaign signs cross the line in Baltimore County when it comes to political parties

Democratic 1st District County Councilman Tom Quirk's sign is posted under a sign for Republican state delegate candidate Joe Hooe on Frederick Road in Oella.
Democratic 1st District County Councilman Tom Quirk's sign is posted under a sign for Republican state delegate candidate Joe Hooe on Frederick Road in Oella. (Lauren Loricchio, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

While it may seem unusual to see Democrat Tom Quirk's campaign signs for his re-election as 1st District County Councilman, attached to those of Joseph Hooe's, a Republican running for state delegate in District 12, both candidates said it's simply a display of bipartisanship.

"Republicans that support both of us have put those signs up," said Quirk, 44, who runs a financial planning company in Catonsville. "There are a lot of people I'm friends with who are Republicans and I definitely have worked hard to be bipartisan."

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Quirk's Republican opponent Al Nalley, a salesman and former small business owner, agreed that party affiliation becomes less relevant at the local level.

"They're more likely to cross party lines at [the local] level," said Nalley, 64, a Lansdowne native who resides in Catonsville. "It's more about personal preferences and relationships."

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Those who observe politics in the community agreed.

"It has nothing to do with the candidates supporting each other — it's the people who put up the signs and some may support both Republican and Democratic candidates," said Brian Bailey, a member of the Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee.

State Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, a Democrat who has represented District 12 since 1987, said campaign signage has nothing to do with the candidates themselves and everything to do with the individual displaying the sign.

"It all depends on the person whose signs go up...they just put up the signs of candidates that they support," Kasemeyer said, adding, "Most people don't just go by party."

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In Catonsville and Arbutus, many voters are described as "Reagan Democrats", a political term for those who broke with the Democratic Party in 1980 and 1984 to vote for Republican Ronald Reagan for president, Bailey said.

"It's a more conservative Democratic area, so they don't have as many qualms about supporting a Republican," said Bailey, who recently ran an unsuccessful campaign for state delegate in District 12.

Hooe, who ran for state delegate in District 12A in 2002, 2006 and 2010, faces two Republicans — Rick Martel and Gordon Bull — and three Democrats — Eric Ebersole, Terri Hill and Clarence Lam — in the general election. The six are vying for three open seats vacated by longtime incumbent Democratic Dels. James Malone, Steven DeBoy and Liz Bobo.

"I've noticed a lot of Hooe and Quirk signs," Hooe said. "Voters aren't voting party. They're voting for the person."

Both Hooe and Quirk said their campaigns are unaffiliated, but they don't oppose having their campaign signs attached.

Laura Hussey, assistant professor of political science at nearby University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said it is not unusual for politicians to tout their ability to work across party lines.

"It may influence voters' perceptions of a candidate's character traits, and these traits are a factor in some voters' choices," Hussey said. "Most people...seem to prefer collaborative over combatitive personalities."

Democrats have the advantage when it comes to most Baltimore County Council districts and they have firm control over county government, Hussey said.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is a Democrat, the third in a series of Democrats in the office after Republican Roger Hayden's term expired in 1994.

Five of the seven current members on the County Council are Democrats, including Quirk.

"It seems to me that Hooe has more mileage to get out of running on bipartisan messages than Quirk does, but perhaps both candidates are simply being themselves, rather than acting in the superficial, strategic way that most of us attribute to politicians," Hussey said.

Early voting for the general election will be held Thursday, Oct. 23 through Thursday, Oct. 30 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the eight Baltimore Couny early voting locations. Among those eight sites is the Bloomsbury Community Center in Catonsville located at 106 Bloomsbury Avenue.

For additional information about voting in the upcoming election go to: http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/elections/

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