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Witching hour for candidates


When the clock struck 9 p.m. on Tuesday, political office-seekers in Maryland had reached their witching hour -- the moment of truth when it was put up or shut up: either put your money up as a filing fee, or sit out this year's election. A record number of candidates filed with the state elections board, ensuring major changes in the composition of the state legislature and a number of county councils.

Confusion reigned in the race for governor, though. Lt. Gov. Melvin Steinberg's campaign continued to perform as though under a magic spell. In the week leading up to the filing deadline, nearly a half-dozen potential running mates were proposed, discussed and eventually rejected -- including three in the last few days. Only hours before the deadline, Mr. Steinberg was still torn between two choices. Finally, he opted for veteran Charles County Sen. James Simpson.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Mary Boergers of Montgomery County confounded experts by choosing former Del. Barbara Kreamer of Harford County, whose success at the polls has dropped precipitously in recent elections. This gives Maryland its first all-female ticket, one that is ardently feminist in its agenda. How will voters respond?

Only one city candidate is in the race -- state Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski, who is running a populist, conservative campaign. Mr. Miedusiewski is the most eloquent of the candidates, though his message may not hit the right chord for enough Marylanders. He picked wisely in his choice of a running mate, Sen. Bernie Fowler of Calvert County, a hero of the environmentalist lobby.

Heading the pack for the Democrats is Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening, who has put together the most comprehensive agenda, as befits an admitted policy wonk. He has come under criticism for his choice of a liberal running mate, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. But that choice should boost the Glendening coffers and give the ticket a youthful look.

Among Republicans, the front-runner team of Rep. Helen Bentley and state Sen. Howard Denis is regarded as a powerhouse. But they are being pressed by Del. Ellen Sauerbrey and her running mate, former Howard County Police Chief Paul Rappaport and a third GOP team consisting of former diplomat William S. Shepard and Carroll County Commissioner Julia Gouge. The excitement generated by an honest-to-goodness GOP primary can only help Republican nominees in November.

There could be some dropouts by the July 15 withdrawal deadline, but voters seem assured of two-fisted, hotly contested elections for all state offices. It's going to be a lively political summer.

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