Finally, the candidates for Anne Arundel County executive are moving into the starting gate. All of a sudden, this is looking like a pretty good horse race.
With incumbent Republican Robert R. Neall out of the running, it's a wide-open contest. The seven potential candidates offer different attributes, styles and personalities. This election may actually focus on the issues rather than insider politics. The candidates sense that voters are not going to stand for anything else.
Even former state senator and clerk of the court H. Erle Schafer, a fixture in North County Democratic circles who has never written a position paper despite running in every local election since 1970, kicked off his campaign by putting his goals in writing. He may not have been as specific as candidates should, but at least he's letting the public know where he stands.
For detailed positions, look to Democrat Robert Agee, a former Lighthizer aide. He knows government and he has a brilliant mind, which shows when he explains his ideas about everything from community policing to schools.
Democratic front-runner Theodore J. Sophocleus offers eight years of County Council experience and political skills that shone recently during his first General Assembly session. He impressed veteran state lawmakers with his eloquence and boldness on the House floor, as well as with his knowledge of local government and land-use issues.
Democrat William Brill is a former County Council member and a thoughtful man who, as a security expert, has spent many years working on solutions to crime issues. Arundel voters looking for someone without a political past may be interested in Larry Walker, a county police corporal.
On the GOP side, Del. John Gary has 14 years of legislative experience, including service on the Appropriations Committee. He is known as reasonable even by those who disagree with his conservative views -- although his demagogic rhetoric about securing Arundel's borders from outside crime could quickly erase this reputation.
Mr. Gary's most serious potential challenger, former state Del. John Leopold, is a loner and can be hard to pin down on issues. But some voters love the way he makes them feel that he cares deeply about them.
The choices are there. It's up to voters to decide what kind of person they want leading Anne Arundel County for the next four years.