The conservative communities of northern Baltimore County have been served by only one Republican on the County Council since district representation became the law in 1974.
This year, the GOP is hoping that T. Bryan McIntire, its 3rd District nominee, can ride the wave of local sentiment for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey, a popular north county delegate.
Democratic nominee I. William Chase concedes that Mrs. Sauerbrey could be a factor, but he said the tradition of crossover voting in the district will favor him -- and not his GOP opponent.
Mr. Chase, a lawyer, lives in the Democratic stronghold of Owings Mills. The Owings Mills-Reisterstown corridor holds the largest concentration of voters in the district, giving him a ready-made edge. He hopes to use that edge to keep alive the string of moderate Democrats who have served the district since 1978.
Mr. McIntire, 64, a former Carroll County state's attorney and a conservative like Mrs. Sauerbrey, cautiously admits the Sauerbrey campaign will have a positive affect on his own race.
"I don't wait around, however, to jump on anyone's coattails," he said. "I have to campaign hard myself."
Mr. Chase noted that both of the 3rd District Democrats elected to the council since 1978 -- James T. Smith Jr., now a Circuit Court judge, and incumbent C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III, who is running for county executive -- consistently won re-election.
In fact, Mr. Ruppersberger was part of a political nonaggression pact among north county elected officials that partisans dubbed the "Unholy Alliance." On the Democratic side, he and former Sen. Francis X. Kelly agreed with GOP Delegates A. Wade Kach, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Mrs. Sauerbrey to support one another informally in general elections.
"I think that showed voters in the district didn't adhere strictly to party lines," Mr. Chase said.
But he's leaving nothing to chance. "I'm knocking on every door, Republican and Democrat," he said.
Mr. Kelly, who lost his Senate seat in 1990 and became a Republican three years ago, said both Mr. McIntire and Mr. Chase are good candidates, but he will be supporting the Republican.
"There is a sentiment out there for a fresh approach to government, reflected in the Sauerbrey primary victory, and I think Bryan can best provide that," said Mr. Kelly.
Phillip W. Worrell, a former GOP Central Committee member and north county resident, said he is supporting Mr. Chase.
"I feel very comfortable with him as our councilman," said Mr. Worrell. "Although I'm supporting Mrs. Sauerbrey [for governor], in the council race I'm going with the candidate and not the party."
Although Democrats have a slight registration edge, the 3rd District has more registered Republicans than any other in the county, and the race is expected to be close.
"I have no doubt that I will get enough crossover votes to win this election," Mr. McIntire said.
"In the end, I feel voters will go with the most experienced candidate regardless of party affiliation," said Mr. Chase.
Mr. Chase, 47, an attorney for the state Public Defender's Office, campaigns as the candidate with experience. He points to his seven years as a member of the county Planning Board.
"I know the different county agencies and how they work and who to go to to get things done, whether it's a stop sign or getting a zoning change," said Mr. Chase.
Mr. McIntire has tried to paint Mr. Chase as a candidate of special interests. He tells voters that Mr. Chase received campaign contributions from developers and their attorneys. Land use, Mr. McIntire said, is the main concern in the district.
Mr. Chase scoffs at the charge as a typical tactic by a candidate who can't match an opponent's fund raising. Mr. Chase, who raised more than $60,000 for the primary and expects to raise another $20,000 for the general election, said about 12 percent of his contributions came from developers.
Mr. McIntire conceded that he never bothered to look up Mr. Chase's votes on the planning board to determine the validity of his charge. The campaign contributions, he indicated, are enough evidence for him. Mr. Chase said, "If he had bothered to look up my voting record on the planning board, he would find nothing there to support his charge."