New legislative seats and overlapping districts have produced a bumper crop of candidates for local and state offices on the Sept. 13 primary ballot in Baltimore County.
The county election board yesterday recorded 366 candidates for open offices ranging from U.S. senator to party central committee member.
"Unless a large number withdraw, it will be a tight squeeze on the primary ballot," said Election Administrator Doris Suter.
Several state legislators are leaving the General Assembly to seek congressional or County Council seats; two councilmen are seeking higher office; and a variety of former officeholders are trying for comebacks -- all of which promises a lively election -- with many opportunities for newcomers.
Kevin Kamenetz, chairman of the county's Democratic State Central Committee, and Kent P. Swanson, his GOP counterpart, both said they were pleased by the candidate turnout because primary competition enhances the political process.
However, Democratic officials are concerned that followers of political extremist Lyndon LaRouche have filed as Democrats for various offices and for State Central Committee seats in several districts.
LaRouche followers tried to capture Central Committee seats in the 1986 election but failed when their campaign was publicized. The Democrats will warn voters this time, too, Mr. Kamenetz said.
"Our position is that the public will be made aware that these individuals support Lyndon LaRouche and not the Democratic Party, and we are confident that voters will make the intelligent choice," Mr. Kamenetz said.
But LaRouche spokeswoman Debra H. Freeman challenged Mr. Kamenetz's assertion. "We are running a slate of LaRouche Democrats, and I take issue with the statement that we don't support the aims and ideals of the Democratic Party. We represent a faction of the Democratic Party and the strength of our party is its diversity," she said.
In the 1990 election, angry Baltimore County voters purged Democrats, replacing the incumbent county executive, Dennis F. Rasmussen, with Republican Roger B. Hayden, and ejecting five Democrats among the seven County Council members. The election gave the GOP control of county government for the first time in decades.
This year, Mr. Kamenetz said, Democrats "are excited because we think the pendulum will be swinging back in our favor after a brief deviation four years ago."
But Mr. Swanson, the GOP leader, said the Republican Party is making a strong showing this year, with enough candidates for primary races in areas where there had never been Republican contests before.
"It looks very good from the U.S. Senate down to the Orphans Courts. The party has some great candidates top to bottom, and with the numbers of primaries, the voters are going to have some tough choices," Mr. Swanson said.
Mr. Hayden faces two primary opponents in his bid for a second term as county executive, former county employee Donald W. Brewer and former policeman George Egbert.
In the open Democratic race, Councilmen Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III and Melvin G. Mintz, are giving up their seats to battle for the executive nomination, along with former state Sen. and District Court Judge John A. Coolahan and LaRouche follower Kevin Pearl.
With Mr. Mintz and Mr. Ruppersberger trying to move up and Independent Donald Mason retiring, the council field is wide open.
3rd District battle
The noisiest council battle will be in the northwestern 3rd District, where four Democrats and four Republicans will slug it out for Mr. Ruppersberger's seat. The Democrats include planning board member William Chase and former County Fire Chief Elwood H. Banister, while the GOP list includes Edward W. Veit, former president of the county teachers union, and T. Bryan McIntyre, a former Carroll County state's attorney.
Five Democrats have signed up to fight for the nomination to succeed Mr. Mintz and to face a lone Republican candidate in the Pikesville-based 2nd District.
In the Dundalk-based 7th District, the winner of the primary battle between former Del. Louis W. DePazzo and former county zoning official Jean Jung will likely succeed Mr. Mason on the council. There are no Republican candidates for the seat.
Incumbent Democrats Paula C. Hollinger and Janice Piccinini are battling each other after their northwest districts were combined after the 1990 census.
The winner of the Hollinger-Piccinini scrap will face Richard Manski, of Reisterstown, the lone GOP candidate.
In another tough race, Eastside veteran Democratic Sen. Michael Collins is being challenged in the 6th District by Alexander B. Page Jr., who lost his seat on the Orphans Court in 1990.
In the nearby 8th District, another veteran, Thomas L. Bromwell, leader of the county's Senate delegation, faces a strong primary race from former Del. Donna Felling. Meanwhile, Republican Del. John J. Bishop Jr. is giving up his House seat to fight a single primary opponent for a chance at Senator Bromwell's job.
In the new 10th District Democrats George K. Gribbroek, Dolores G. Kelley and Harold G. Gordon are battling for the Senate nomination and the right to face lone Republican Jerome Goodman.
Some county voters along Baltimore City's border will find themselves looking at unfamiliar candidates, thanks to new boundaries that looped several city-based districts into the county.
In District District 42, which gobbled up part of Pikesville, Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman is running completely unopposed. In the southeastern 46th District, Del. Anthony M. DiPietro Jr. and Baltimore City Councilman Perry Sfikas are battling each another and Thomas Siemek for the nomination to succeed Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski, who is running for governor. No Republicans have filed.
In District 47, which crosses the border in the southwest, incumbent Sen. George W. Della faces two other Democrats for re-election. There are no GOP candidates.
In House races, a mixture of incumbent veterans and tyros has signed up to battle for the seats.