After months of debates, campaign rallies and even some drop-outs, presidential primary season will officially kick off Monday with the Iowa caucuses.
While Marylanders have three more months before the state's primary election on April 26, the Times checked in with some of Carroll's elected officials at the county and state level to discuss what candidates they are supporting in the 2016 presidential race.
Sen. Justin Ready, R-District 5:
Although the Republican party has a lot of strong candidates in the race, Ready said his mind is made. He likes Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
"He brings sort of a breath of fresh air," Ready said. "He's somebody who communicates my values in a way that will win other people over to us."
While Ready knows who will likely be getting his vote, watching such a large field of candidates vie for the nomination has been heartening, even if, at times, it has proven a challenge for candidates.
"I think its made it harder for some candidates' voices to be heard," he said. "But, over time, the cream rises to the top."
Among Rubio's strengths, Ready said, are his promises to reduce the size and scope of federal government and his commitment to reducing taxes. Combined with his ability to effectively communicate his message, Ready said Rubio has the potential to easily win the general election.
"The most important thing for me is that he's a really good communicator," he said. "I look to find somebody who is the strongest candidate, who matches my values the closest."
Del. Susan Krebs, R-District 5:
The number of candidates in the Republican race is an encouraging sign to Krebs.
"I like all of the candidates," she said. "I'm proud to have such a deep bench."
Although she likes both Marco Rubio and Ben Carson, she expects to run for delegate for Rubio, she said.
Delegates, who attend their party's national convention and cast their ballot for the party's nominee, are either elected in Maryland's primary election to represent their party in their congressional district or are picked at-large by the state Central Committee in May.
"I think, fundamentally, they're good people," Krebs said of the two candidates. She has been following both men for a while, she said, and has met Carson in person. But Rubio may have an ultimate edge.
"He does have the legislative experience," she said.
With news emerging in late January that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg may be considering a third-party run for president, Krebs said she has some reservations about the possible general election lineup including two billionaires running largely self-funded campaigns.
"I don't want to see someone be able to buy a presidential election," she said.
She said she also hopes to see a competitive race that extends well beyond the first primaries, giving other states the chance to make their voice heard.
"It's really frustrating we have all these good candidates and we really have no say," she said.
Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5
While the primary election in Maryland is still months away, Shoemaker said he is confident in his choice: Marco Rubio.
Shoemaker is so confident, he said, that he will run as an alternate delegate for Rubio.
"I like the fact that he's conservative, he's articulate, he's somebody, I think, who will appeal to young folks," Shoemaker said.
Rubio also hails from Florida, a state that has proven to be very important in recent presidential elections, he said, and may appeal to Hispanic voters more than other Republican contenders.
"That's the key demographic in the U.S. today," he said.
Watching the Republican race, Shoemaker said he has been impressed with Rubio's tax plan and his stated goal of investing in the country's military.
In picking a candidate, Republicans should also keep the general election in mind, he said.
"I want to make sure that a Republican wins," he said. "I think [Rubio's] demonstrated why he'd be an exceptional president of the United States."
Del. April Rose, R-District 5:
At the start of the race, Rose said she liked Rick Perry, former governor of Texas. But with Perry now out of the race, she took a harder look at some of the other candidates.
"At this point I'm pretty much in the Rubio camp," she said.
Although she likes Cruz and Carson, Rubio has grabbed her attention in the past couple months, she said.
"I think his performance at the first couple debates — I was very impressed with him," she said. "That kind of pushed me over the edge to his camp."
Rose said she also liked Rubio's focus on improving national security, something she said she believes is the most important issue facing the next president. In particular, she said, the next president will have to develop a strategy to fight ISIS and other terror groups.
"I think that we need a really strong leader to handle those situations," Rose said. "He understands that we need a strong defense."
County Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1:
Although he said he's still undecided about which candidate he'll be casting his vote for in April, one candidate has caught his eye.
"I do know that, up until this point, one of my favorites, whom I've been most impressed with, is Marco Rubio," Wantz said. "I'm kind of liking what he's had to say."
Among the top issues the candidates should be addressing, Wantz said, are the county's economy and foreign policy.
"I'm looking to see who's strong there," he said of issues overseas. "That's such a time bomb right now."
No matter who gets the nomination, the ability to work with members outside their own party will be key, Wantz said.
"There's such a discontent down in Washington right now," he said. "[They] have got to start reaching across the aisle or I'm not sure where we're going to be."
County Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2:
For Weaver, the difficulty in determining which candidate he most favors has been finding one with whom he agrees on all issues.
So far, he said, he has heard things he likes from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and real estate executive Donald Trump.
"I like pieces of this, pieces of this, pieces of this," Weaver said. "I can't get behind one candidate who has all the pieces together; it's going to be who has the most."
"Every one of them scares me, but every one of them makes good points," he added.
Trade and foreign relations are at the top of the list of his concerns, Weaver said.
But electing a new president does not necessarily equate to igniting an upheaval of the system either, he said. Every president must work with Congress in order to get things done, he said.
Above all, he said, he will support a candidate who is willing to work with lawmakers beyond members of his or her own party.
"Until we start working together as a country, we're going to be fragmented," he said. "Yes, we've always had fights, but when you had to do something, you joined together and did it."
County Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3:
Two candidates have stood out to Frazier, though he said he doesn't know who would get his vote today.
Frazier said he likes some of John Kasich's ideas, but he worries the Ohio governor's presence in the race has been eclipsed by other candidates.
Trump also brings some good qualities to the race, Frazier said.
"I think he could do a good job if he had someone running with him who could moderate some of his views," he said. "You just run face-first into everything."
The abundance of candidates has made it difficult to pay each candidate the attention he would like to, he said.
"There's so much information going out because there are so many candidates," he said. "It's hard to really pinpoint what's this and what's that."
Among the issues Frazier said he will consider in deciding whom to ultimately vote for - national security, the economy and health care are at the top.
Though there are many aspects of the Affordable Care Act that don't appeal to him, Frazier said he would like to see Republicans approach the issue from a different angle.
"OK, you're probably not going to get rid of it," he said. "Let's look at ways we can fix it."
County Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4:
Finding a candidate who will also be a strong general election candidate is key for the Republican party, Rothschild said.
"The question is which Republican we can elect," he said.
For Rothschild, that candidate is Donald Trump.
"There are a large number of independents who view him as not part of the political establishment," Rothschild said. "What good is voting for any of the other candidates if they're going to get their [butts] handed to them in the general?"
The success of Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ben Carson proves that the country is ready for a major change, he said.
"This election — the Republican primary — is a battle between establishment and non-establishment candidates," Rothschild said, adding that he sees similarities between his own approach to political office and that of Cruz, who has been vocal in his criticism of his own party.
The message candidates need to hear, Rothschild said, is "we are sick and tired of the Republican majorities in the House and Senate doing nothing to stop Obama."
"They want us to stop the Democratic machinery," he said.
County Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5:
When the race began, Howard said he was expecting Jeb Bush to make a stronger showing. But with the former governor of Florida lagging in the polls, the race has gotten interesting, he said.
"I like the effect that Donald Trump has had on the race," he said, adding that he doesn't agree with all of the bombastic candidate's views. "I just think there's a lot of substantive things that are being talked about."
As the race moves forward, Howard said he is paying close attention to how the candidates plan to address the country's economy, what their plan is for the nation's infrastructure and what plans they have for schools.
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"It's the real bread-and-butter issues," he said.
Ultimately, the Republican nominee may not be decided by Monday's caucuses or by the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary, Howard said.
"I think whoever can hang on in third or fourth ... if there is a major shake-up, they're going to be the ones to watch," he said.
An earlier version of this article misidentified Ohio Gov. John Kasich current position.