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With all the focus on the presidential campaign the equally important legislative races are a bit neglected. If Rep. Chris Van Hollen wins the vacant senatorial seat currently held by retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, then the 8th Congressional District seat will necessarily become vacant.

We receive phone calls from candidates we know nothing about. A significant piece of the 8th District covers most of South Carroll. Time to do some homework on the candidates announced thus far.

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No Republicans have filed yet. It looks like it will stay a safe Democratic seat.

State Sen. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat, has a full resume of service in public office, mostly in the Senate. In recent elections, he has run unopposed in his party. On paper, at least, he is the strongest candidate. He has a fistful of endorsements from prominent Democratic individuals and organizations. His campaign contributions received to date are $629,299. View his Web page at jamieraskin.com.

Kathleen Matthews had a 25-year career in journalism and also worked in Marriott International. I could not find any record of her serving in public office. She is heavy on women's rights and gun control. She has endorsements from Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, former Lt. Gov. Katherine Kennedy Townsend and some national progressive figures. Her husband is Chris Matthews, host of "Hardball with Chris Matthews" on MSNBC. We have had two calls from her surrogates at this address. Her fundraising for this campaign is approaching the million-dollar mark. See her Web page at kathleenmatthewsforcongress.com.

The third candidate mentioned in The Baltimore Sun as a leading prospect is Kumar Barve. He was first elected to the House of Delegates in 1990. Currently, he is serving as majority leader of the House. His main issues are climate reform and immigration policy. Barve's grandfather, an immigrant from India and an early worker on developing television, was stripped of his citizenship in 1923. He carried his case to the Supreme Court and won. Barve's campaign contributions are thus far about a quarter million. See his Web page at www.kumarbarve.com.

There are two other Democratic candidates in the 8th whose candidacies have attracted less attention and less financial support: William Jawando (willjawando.com) and Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez (www.alpfadc.org/ana-sol-gutierrez-candidate-for-congress/). These two have stories to tell also. Visit their websites for more information.

The race for president has brought out two leaders in each party: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for the Democrats, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz on the Republican side. In both parties, the races are very close. Currently in the national polls the challengers are narrowing the gaps.

But perhaps more interesting are the head-to-head numbers matching each candidate against the two contenders in the opposite party:

Clinton 44.3 percent, Trump 42.5 percent and closing

Clinton 44.5 percent, Cruz 46.5 percent and gaining

Sanders 44.5 percent and gaining, Trump 42.3 percent

Sanders 44.5 percent, Cruz 41.7 and closing

These are averages of several polls as displayed by Real Clear Politics. The only certainty is that the numbers and trends will change week by week. It is possible that a "dark horse" candidate can emerge from the pack on the Republican side. The only other candidate on the Democratic side is Martin O'Malley and his numbers are in the single digits. Color him forgotten. Furniture gate is the final blow against his campaign.

My best guess is Sanders vs. Trump in November and you pick the winner.

John Culleton writes from Eldersburg. His column appears every second Tuesday. Email him at cct@wexfordpress.com.

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