Now that the filing deadline for the primary election is over, getting a fix on the direction of Carroll County's political campaign is a bit easier. Still, judging from the number of candidates running, the withdrawal of some key incumbents and the general dissatisfaction with elected officials, the county's political equation has more variables than in years past.
The contest for the three delegate seats in District 5 is shaping up to be the most contentious of the primary, particularly on the Republican side. Richard C. Matthews' decision not to run for re-election makes that race much more open. As a seven-term incumbent, Mr. Matthews would have dominated the GOP primary.
The other strong candidate was commissioner Julia W. Gouge, who has successfully run two countywide races and was expected to grab one of the GOP's other nominations. However, by deciding to be gubernatorial candidate William Shepard's running mate, Mrs. Gouge opened the race. Now all three positions on the GOP ballot are up for grabs, and the playing field is much more level. On the Democratic side, incumbent Richard Dixon is all but assured one seat, with three other Democrats vying for the other two nominations.
The nominations for county commissioner are the other major races with a less certain outcome. Each party has five candidates competing for three positions on the November ballot. Incumbents Donald I. Dell, a Republican, and Elmer C. Lippy, a Democrat, are the front-runners and expected nominees.
The scramble for the other nominations will be fierce. By virtue of being an elected official, Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown has a leg up on the other candidates. David Duree and Richard T. Yates have been politically active and could mount effective campaigns. On the Democratic side, non-politicians Neil Ridgely and David Grand will be campaigning against Rebecca Orenstein and Sam Sensabaugh, who have elective experience. Ms. Orenstein has been a Westminster councilwoman, Mr. Sensabaugh the county sheriff.
With Thomas E. Hickman and Jerry F. Barnes facing off again in the Republican primary for state's attorney -- they last opposed each other in 1990 -- that race also promises to be full of fireworks. In fact, Carroll's political scene in the next two months may be as hot as the summer weather.