It's been more than a decade since all the voters of the county could vote for all the members of the county council.
A key argument in favor of switching from countywide to in-district selection of county council members was that the smaller districts would allow for more grassroots campaigns. Rather than have to get a message out to a county of 250,000 — the theory went — candidates in a particular district would only have to reach about 41,500 people. Actually, the number of people needing to be contacted is even smaller than that as each district has roughly 27,500 registered voters. In the primary, a council candidate need contact between 10,000 and 11,000 people to touch base with all of a particular party's registered voters. Consider that it is easy to get a list of likely voters from the local elections office (a list of people who voted in the last non-presidential election year), and it is possible to run a grassroots primary campaign that focuses on fewer than 5,000 registered, likely voters of either of the two major parties.
The numbers make it sound like anyone active and in good standing with a house of worship and two or three civic organizations would have a shot at being elected, especially with a little bit of organization.
The wave of community activist candidates for Harford County Council, however, is yet to materialize. Between the Democrats and Republicans, there should be a dozen races being decided this month.
In reality, there is no race at all in one of the districts, as incumbent Republican Joe Woods is the only candidate from either party in Fallston District B.
In North Harford District D, no Democrats have filed to run, so Republican voters alone will decide who represents the district.
In each of Districts A, C, and F, a single Democrat is assured a spot on the November ballot as there is no primary competition; each of those districts has a contested GOP primary.
Only in Aberdeen-Churchville District E are both primaries contested.
Which brings up the subject of recommending candidates in the contested races:
In District D, where the Republican primary decides the race, incumbent Chad R. Shrodes is challenged by Jonathan C. Grimmel. Both are solid candidates, but Grimmel has an uphill battle. Throughout the year, Shrodes misses very few public gatherings, and has garnered a reputation for being willing to listen to his constituents. As a council member, he has shown a willingness to admit he doesn't know everything about every issue and follows up by schooling himself on matters where his background is thin.
In a lot of ways, the country would be better off with more elected officials who follow the Shrodes method of operation.
The Aegis recommends Republicans in District D cast ballots for Chad Shrodes.
The balance of the recommendations involve candidates who will end up facing opposition in the November general election.
In Joppatowne-Edgewood District A, two Republicans are angling for an opportunity to unseat uncontested incumbent Democrat Dion Guthrie. They are Yvonne Baldwin, whose family runs Baldwin's Crab House in Joppa, and Mike Perrone Jr., an accountant.
Both grew up in the community and have mounted serious campaigns, and either can be expected to give Guthrie a serious challenge.
Baldwin, however, has the edge in experience. She has been a member of the community council that serves the Joppa area and, as such, has a sense of the issues that concern people in the area. The councils have no authority, but meet regularly, serving as forums for people to expound on the issues they care about: schools, development, public safety and the like. By moving up to the county council, Baldwin would have a chance to effect public policy with regard to the issues she has heard about while serving on the community council.
The Aegis recommends voters in Edgewood-Joppa District A cast ballots for Yvonne Baldwin.
In Bel Air District C, Republican incumbent James C. "Cap'n Jim" McMahan faces a challenge from Eric Daxon, whose focus is on repealing the so-called "rain tax," and David E. Mitchell, perhaps best known for operating a hot dog cart for many years in the area around the courthouse in Bel Air.
Though Daxon has seized upon an issue that has irritated a lot of people in Harford County, it seems the more appropriate office to seek, if "rain tax" repeal were his goal, would be the state legislature. The tax may have been levied locally, but the county had no choice as it was required by state law.
Though Mitchell has been politically active in local campaigns, his experience on the public policy side is limited at best.
The Aegis suggests voters in Bel Air District C stick with James McMahan.
In Aberdeen-Churchville District E, Democratic voters have a choice between Barbara Osborn Kreamer, a former lawyer who served on the county council and in the Maryland House of Delegates decades ago, and political newcomer Duvowel M. Peaker Sr., who grew up in Aberdeen and has had a 22-year career in the Army.
Peaker was transferred to APG in 1996 and in 1999 he transferred from regular Army to active National Guard and Reserve so he could remain in Aberdeen. Peaker also is active in his church and with local youth athletic programs.
In a lot of ways, Peaker is exactly the kind of candidate envisioned by supporters of in-district council voting, though he is one of the few to materialize.
Kreamer's runs for public office in recent years have been disorganized and unsuccessful.
The Aegis recommends Democrats in Aberdeen-Churchville District E cast ballots for Duvowel M. Peaker Sr.
On the Republican side in District E, the candidates are:
• Daniel Lambros, a former Aberdeen Proving Ground computer programmer, who owns his own contracting, real estate and property management businesses;
• Blane H. Miller III, a Navy veteran who works for a military contractor and was elected in 2002 to serve on the Republican Central Committee;
• Diane L. Sengstacke, a lawyer, owner of Home Title Company of MD and president of the law firm Sengstacke and Evans;
• Patrick Vincenti, a self-employed carver of duck decoys, who is active in the Harford County Chamber of Commerce and the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum; and
• Melvin J. Wehrman Jr., a career firefighter who has run for the seat before, but has done little campaigning this time.
While Lambros, Miller, Sengstacke and Vincenti all have solid credentials, Sengstacke and Vincenti have expressed fairly well-informed positions on issues like development and school funding. Campaign statements by the others are in keeping with party themes like cutting taxes and reducing government, but no specifics are offered.
The Aegis recommends Republican voters support Patrick Vincenti over Sengstacke, based on his relatively high profile involvement in the Chamber of Commerce and the Decoy Museum.
In Havre de Grace-Abingdon District F, Republicans have a choice of two candidates to square off against Joseph C. Smith, the lone Democrat on the primary ballot. Curtis L. Beulah, an Army veteran who runs a financial services business based in Nottingham, faces Monica Ann Worrell, a former public information officer for the Harford County Sheriff's Office who is marketing manager for Advanced Eye Care.
While both are solid candidates with plenty of real world life experience, Beulah's campaign is focused on political generalities, while Worrell demonstrates an understanding that the county council is responsible for funding roads, schools, parks and public safety.
Also, Worrell has done volunteer work with dozens of organizations ranging from the Restaurant Association of Maryland to the Harford Swim League to high school boosters.
Because of Worrell's track record of public service, and her experience in both government and private industry, The Aegis recommends Republican voters cast ballots for Monica Worrell this month.