There's no secret to campaigning in the 9th Legislative District of Baltimore County. You knock on doors, put up signs, attend any meeting that will let you in and get your message out to the public.
Stephen W. Lafferty, Democratic candidate for the House of Delegates in 9B, and his Republican opponent, James M. Kelly, are doing all that and more to win the one House seat allotted to their small Towson-based subdistrict. Both are running for office for the first time.
Such middle-class neighborhoods as Stoneleigh, Rodgers Forge, Pinehurst and Wiltondale are the backbone of 9B, which is bounded by Gittings Avenue, the Beltway, Charles Street and Loch Raven Boulevard.
It is part of the huge 9th District, which stretches from Gittings Avenue to the Pennsylvania line. Sen. F. Vernon Boozer, 58, the veteran Republican incumbent, is unopposed after ill health forced Democrat John C. Head out of the Nov. 8 election.
Mr. Lafferty, 45, who has a law degree from the University of Baltimore, is a member of the county Planning Board and is on the boards of several civic associations. He has lived in Stoneleigh for a year, and in Idlewylde for 14 years before that.
"I'm idealistic enough to think I can make a difference," the Towson attorney said. "I want to help set the direction of state policies."
Mr. Lafferty said his work with a cross section of civic and business leaders has helped him understand the issues.
"I know the concerns and the broad picture because of this involvement," he said.
Mr. Lafferty's membership on the Planning Board has brought a conflict of interest charge from his opponent, who said Mr. Lafferty voted on issues involving four firms that made contributions to his campaign. The contributions ranged from $100 to $470, for a total of $1,010.
Planning Board records show that Mr. Lafferty voted on the side of the contributors six times, but Mr. Lafferty said, "It sounds more important than it is. If I had seen a real conflict, I would have stepped aside. . . ."
Harold G. Reid, chairman of the Planning Board, which rules on zoning matters, said, "It's a moot point. The votes were unanimous."
Robert Scholz, chairman of the county Commission on Ethics, said he has not received a formal complaint and could not comment.
Mr. Kelly, 34, a University of Maryland graduate, was a state trooper for 5 1/2 years and owned a lawn service for four years. He is now a commercial lender for a bank in Towson.
"I think my background as a businessman and banker lends itself to an understanding of the issues in the state," he said.
He has lived in Donnybrook for five years. His civic activities involve the Donnybrook Association and youth coaching in several sports.
He said citizens must take responsibility for their actions; he supports harsher treatment of repeat violent offenders.
Two House seats are at stake in Subdistrict 9A in the northern part of the district.
Shelley Buckingham, 42, director of advocacy and lobbyist for the American Lung Association of Maryland, and Raymond A. Huber, 64, a retired employee of the state Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, are running for the first time. Both live in Loch Raven Village.
The two Democrats will face veteran Republican Dels. A. Wade Kach, 47, of Cockeysville and Martha S. Klima, 55, of Lutherville. Mr. Kach has been in the House since 1975, Ms. Klima since 1983.
"The people I've talked to say they don't even know who their incumbents are, so they can't be doing much," said Ms. Buckingham, a volunteer with United Way for 15 years.
She said the votes of the incumbents are "colored by PAC money."
Mr. Huber twice sued his employer -- in 1984 and 1988 -- for what he said were violations of the merit system, and he won both times.
"I did it as a matter of principle, and I think I'm tough enough to do more than just talk about the problems of the state," he said.
Mr. Kach, a Western Maryland College graduate who is an auditor with the county school system, believes public safety is the No. 1 concern and opposes parole for violent offenders. He also thinks there is much waste in state government.
Ms. Klima, who holds an associate arts degree from Villa Julie College, said crime is an issue that is "hitting closer to home" with the extension of the light rail system.
"I have only two items in my capital budget: prisons and schools," she said.