The primary election was over less than 24 hours when determined office-seekers began holding a new round of fundraisers to prepare for the November 2 general election.
First came Wednesday night's gathering at the Hilton Garden Inn for Jon Weinstein, a Democrat who has been running for the House of Delegates in Republican-dominated District 9A since January 2009, followed on Thursday by GOP county council candidate Robert L. Flanagan's affair featuring lieutenant governor candidate Mary Kane. Delegates Gail H. Bates and Warren E. Miller, the two Republicans Weinstein and ally Maryann Maher would like to replace, had scheduled a third event Friday night.
Weinstein had well-known local singer Deanna Bogart, who lives in the district, entertaining a crowd of about 40 people, including County Executive Ken Ulman, Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, other elected officials and leaders of the county teachers and police unions. Weinstein said he picked the day just after the exhausting primary for a simple reason.
"I just figured it's the beginning of the race to the finish," he said.
Bogart sang "Peep Hole," telling listeners not to just peek at life through a peep-hole, but to open the door and grab the opportunities. She's a Weinstein believer, Bogart said, joking that she worked the event "for a stuffed mushroom" in payment.
Gansler praised Weinstein as a "former Republican" who has seen the light and become a "pro-business, moderate, centrist Democrat who believes gay people should be able to get married." Weinstein said he believes in compromise to get things done.
Democrats want Miller and Bates out, seeing them as obstructionists, even though they are the only two Republicans among eight state delegates from Howard County.
Miller said that as a backer of President Barack Obama's national health care reform, Weinstein is a liberal, not a moderate.
"The last thing in the world we need are two more liberal Democrats in Annapolis," he said. "They already have a monopoly."
Republicans look to future
Howard Republicans are trying to build a precinct-level political organization they can use as a springboard for future dominance after what they believe will be a big year statewide for the GOP.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change this county," Mark Jascewsky, co-chair of the Howard County Ehrlich for governor campaign, told a group of about 35 party activists at a meeting in a Columbia restaurant Thursday. And this year is the start, not the end, he said. "When 2012 gets here, that's another critical election. We want to hit the streets aggressively."
Though he apologized for the late start in organizing a voter registration drive, he said the party central committee was backing the effort to recruit a captain for each of the county's 113 precincts, backed by support teams above and below their level. With that kind of structure, he said, the party can be an invaluable resource for candidates who now do their own voter research, place their own yard signs and recruit their own volunteers.
The goal this year, he said, is to get 50 captains in place by Sept. 27, when voter registration rolls reopen, and sign up as many new Republicans as possible. So far, he said, he and co-chair Steven Adler have recruited about 30 precinct captains, who in turn need to find several team members.
Several candidates, from county executive hopeful Trent Kittleman to county council candidates Tom D'Asto, Flanagan and Dennis R. Schrader, attended, as did central committee members and party chairwoman Joan Becker.
"The Democrats are very organized," said Jascewsky, a civil engineer who's now unemployed. But this year, volunteers seem eager to help the GOP.
"Getting people to vote for governor is going to have huge coattails for other candidates," he said, claiming that seven of every 10 registered independent voters contacted by the party's 20-phone bank operation said they planned to vote Republican.
Ehrlich, who visited Clyde's restaurant for another of his business lunchtime discussions on Sept. 10, predicted he would win Howard County, though he wasn't sure by how much. "The headwinds we had last time are clearly tailwinds," he told the group of about 18 business owners.
County Democratic Chairman Mike McPherson is highly skeptical. "If they are this late organizing a so-called precinct organization they can forget it. These are not easy to put together," he said. As for the independent vote, McPherson said "most of the independents I talk to would, in all probability vote Democratic. They just don't want to have a label."
Confidence for 'Zee'
Despite Republicans' overall confidence this year, Democrats are enthusiastic about Dr. Zaneb "Zee" Beams, the energetic pediatrician and national health care advocate running against District 5 county councilman Greg Fox, a Fulton Republican.
Beams held a fundraiser Sunday night at a huge $1.16 million model home off Ten Oaks Road in Clarksville attended by Ulman, Del. Elizabeth Bobo and county council members Jen Terrasa and Calvin Ball, as well as state Dels. Shane Pendergrass and Guy Guzzone.
"You know how strongly I feel about this race," Ulman said to the roughly 40 people there. "Serving the public is about helping kids, which she does every day," he added. "She's taking this on like a mission."
Beams acknowledged that most people think she can't win a seat held by Republicans for decades, but she said there was a way. "If we get the unaffiliated voters, we're golden. We're going to take District 5 for the Democrats."
Fox is the council's only Republican, and has criticized Ulman's Healthy Howard health access plan for the uninsured and his spending on environmental programs rather than salting the cash away to help weather the recession.
Early voting numbers
Deputy Howard County elections board administrator Guy Mickley said about 4,500 people participated in early voting before the primary, but that did not reduce the number of people who requested absentee ballots from the same time in 2006.
That year, 1,123 people got absentee ballots for the primary, compared to 1,700 this year.