The Democratic primary race is on in District 9B, where the two candidates for a newly drawn state delegate seat both held Ellicott City-based fundraisers within a week of each other earlier this month.
Tom Coale, an attorney, blogger and former Columbia Association board member, announced his candidacy in June. Rich Corkran, a retired Howard County math and computer science teacher, followed suit in October, saying he wanted to give Democrats in the district a choice.
Coale hosted his event Nov. 5. Billed as a night "Celebrating the Past and Future," the fundraiser was held at the Howard County Historical Society Museum on the steep Court Avenue hilltop.
About 40 people turned out for Coale's event, including Comptroller Peter Franchot and District 2 County Council member Calvin Ball, both of whom introduced the candidate.
Also in attendance were District 1 County Council member Courtney Watson, District 1 council candidate Jon Weinstein, who hopes to take Watson's seat, Fire Union representative Rich Ruehl, District 9 state Senate candidate Dan Medinger and District 12 hopeful Nick Stewart. The Howard County Police Officer's Association co-sponsored the event.
A theme of the night was supporting Howard County's working and middle class.
"It is middle class and working families that are struggling and the data is irrefutable. We need to first of all recognize the problem, second of all elect people with common sense and independence and who are willing to think about doing things in a slightly different way to make adjustments for this economy," Franchot said, adding that he would "be there financially" for Coale and contribute his "teams on the ground" as much as possible.
Coale said the question for his campaign was not "What" – as in, "What do you feel about X?" Instead, he said, it's "How?"
"'How?' is the question, and that's the difference between a lawmaker and a public servant, a public servant and a politician," he said. "I'm not going to be someone who comes to Annapolis with ideology or yes and no answers on everything."
If Coale is the idealistic pragmatist of the race looking to "fundamentally [change] the way [people] appreciate their society," Corkran was happy to tout what he sees as the Democratic party's success thus far and urge its continuation.
At his event, held Nov. 12 at the Diamondback Tavern and attended by about 35 people, many of whom were his colleagues on the Democratic Central Committee, Corkran said the county's quality of life was "excellent because of the Democrats."
Corkran said his two mandates, if elected as a delegate, would be constituent service and attention to the state-level big picture of passing laws that would benefit all Marylanders.
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"Democrats want to solve the problems and make it a better Maryland," he said, saying he would focus on education, public safety and environmental stewardship.
Corkran's fundraiser was attended by Howard County Sheriff Jim Fitzgerald, County Council member Jen Terrasa, District 13 candidate Janet Siddiqui, District 12 hopeful and central committee member Clarence Lam and District 9 candidate Medinger. Watson aide Stephanie Binetti attended the event for the Council member.
Democratic Central Committee chairman Michael McPherson gave Corkran an introduction laden with political-insider commentary.
"Rich is a dedicated Democrat and that's what I looked at — are you a real Democrat or did you change your affiliation?" McPherson said, in a nod to Coale, who changed his voter registration from Republican to Democrat more than a year ago. Coale wrote an in-depth post on his blog explaining his reasoning for the change in September 2012.
McPherson said he thought District 9B, which encompasses Ellicott City and portions of Columbia and Elkridge and is considered one of the more competitive districts in the county, was winnable for a Democrat — because the Democrats in the State House drew it that way.
"It was drawn for a Democrat to win in that district," McPherson said. He said Howard County had come a long way for the Democratic party since its days as a majority-Republican region four gubernatorial cycles ago.
Now, McPherson said, "When I talk to people, they think we were blue since Day One."