Fourth District Democrats James B. Kraft and Mary C. Lorsung may get together after the Sept. 13 primary, but for now the two candidates seeking the County Council seat vacated by Democrat Paul C. Farragut are putting as much distance between themselves as possible.
Mr. Kraft, 44, sees Ms. Lorsung -- who is Mr. Farragut's aide and a former village manager in Harper's Choice -- as the quintessential staff member. Ms. Lorsung, 56, sees Mr. Kraft -- a
former Democratic Central Committee
member and House of Delegates candidate -- as the quintessential political insider.
What one sees as a liability, the other sees as a strength.
Mr. Kraft, for example, says his years of political activity can help him help the county.
"Given the problems facing us, we need a strong person who is not afraid to face tough issues," he says. "Her background is as a staff person, my background is as a leader. It's a very important difference. Government is getting to be more and more regionalized, and when she calls the governor or anyone else for help in our district, they'll be reacting to her as a staff person. When I call, it's not some staff person calling up, it's Jim. I know all the players."
Mr. Kraft runs through a list that includes U.S. Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, Baltimore City Council President Mary Pat Clarke and Montgomery County Council member Bruce T. Adams.
"I know them both personally and politically," he says. "I went to school with some of these people or their friends. I have a bond, a relationship with these people that transcends the political."
Ms. Lorsung is unimpressed. "A major difference between us may be our background, experience and how we come at the issues," she says. "I have a 20-plus-year track record of leadership in the issues I think are important: affordable housing, public transportation, human services. I not only have commitment to these issues, but I can initiate action and get things done."
She points to her record as a founding board member of several organizations -- the Columbia Forum, the Columbia Archives, the Housing Alliance, the United Way Community Partnerships, and the AIDS Alliance of Howard County.
"The difference in what I bring," she says, "is that I have had a hand in working at the grass roots" -- as Harper's Choice village manager, aide to Del. Virginia M. Thomas, a 13th District Democrat, and aide to Mr. Farragut. "I have seen how all these facets fit together," she says. "I have an understanding of county, state and local processes."
Her expertise is born of "practical experience," Ms. Lorsung says. "In 22 years of community leadership, you get to know the cutting issues from the real grass roots -- trash, recycling, drainage problems. I have the actual experience in helping people to work with whatever parties are necessary to solve their problems."
Both candidates are campaigning house to house, but at different times. Ms. Lorsung, who is taking annual leave from her council job each afternoon, campaigns from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. She campaigns early, she says, because she does not want to interrupt people's dinner hour.
She is brief and to the point. "Hi, I'm Mary Lorsung and I'm running for County Council," she says. "I hope you'll remember me on Sept. 13. I'm leaving you this literature, and I hope you'll read an expanded version in the League of Women Voters guide."
Mr. Kraft warms up for his door-to-door rounds by standing along a busy thoroughfare, holding a sign, and smiling and waving at commuters returning home from work. "It's poor man's TV" advertising, he says. "And the people like it. They like seeing a smiling face coming home from work. It shows that you care enough to do what it takes to represent them. Virtually every night, I'll meet one or two people who say, 'I know you -- you're the guy I saw standing on the street corner the other day.' "
Mr. Kraft begins his door-to-door campaigning about the time Ms. Lorsung is quitting. Unlike Ms. Lorsung, he parks his car with his campaign signs in one place and walks the entire area rather than visiting different neighborhoods on the same night.
Both candidates carry voter lists, but only Mr. Kraft calls the voters by name. "Are you Barbara?" he asks a woman who comes to the door. "I assume Fred is still working. I notice you have four registered Democrats in the house."
He gives the woman one of his campaign cards. "I hope you will read it all and give me your support," he tells her. "Paul Farragut, as you know, is retiring from the council and I hope to take his place."
4 Each house offers a variation of the same theme.
Both Mr. Kraft and Ms. Lorsung write notes if no one answers the door. "They'll know it was the candidate who dropped by and not someone else," Mr. Kraft says.
If voting patterns follow those of four years ago when only 32.5 percent of the county's registered Democrats voted in the primary, Mr. Kraft or Ms. Lorsung will need 1,860 of those voters to be assured of victory.
And in a district where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2 to 1, the primary winner is virtually assured of election in November.