More than 350 candidates have filed to run this year for various federal, state and local offices in Baltimore County. This suggests that politics is not so reviled a profession as popular opinion and late-night TV monologues would have us believe. Or maybe all those county candidates just happen to be gluttons for punishment.
We like to think the abundance of filers indicates a healthy interest in the political process. No doubt it will confuse some voters as they try to distinguish Candidate Tweedle-dee from Candidate Tweedle-dum. At the same time, it should make more citizens take notice of the unusually heated campaigns in their respective back yards.
As is the case throughout Maryland, Baltimore County will see an inordinately diverse field of candidates this year. More women, more African-Americans and more Republicans will appear on primary ballots in September. Even in Essex, where the east-side Democratic machine controlled county politics for much of this century, a relative multitude of Republicans has emerged. Remarkably, of the 15 candidates who filed for the House of Delegates race in the 6th (Essex) Legislative District, eight are Republicans and seven are Democrats. (That whirring noise you hear is the sound of the late machine bosses spinning in their graves.)
Both the state and county levels will offer many intriguing contests. The ballyhooed rivalry between state Senators Paula Hollinger and Janice Piccinini of the redrawn 11th District will finally be settled. The new black-majority 10th District has no incumbents and should make history by electing the county's first black, non-federal officeholders. The 9B District carved out of Towson for Del. Gerry Brewster, now running for Congress, is a wide-open race with numerous hopefuls. The 7th District primary will be eyed closely to determine whether Dundalk has forgiven John Arnick.
In the county executive's race, Republican incumbent Roger Hayden and Democratic challenger C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger are the front-runners in their primaries, but neither man will enjoy a cakewalk. All seven County Council campaigns should likewise be competitive, especially in the open 2nd, 3rd and 7th districts. Two candidates, Democratic Dels. Louis DePazzo and Joseph Bartenfelder, will try the rare trick of jumping from the General Assembly to the County Council.
Plenty of candidates, plenty of tight races. They portend an uncommonly exciting summer on the Baltimore County political scene.