Del. David G. Boschert was knocking on doors in Piney Orchard in June when the political ground shifted under him.
Boschert, a first-term Republican from Crownsville, picked up the newspaper after a hot day of campaigning in western Anne Arundel County to read that the state's highest court had just kicked Piney Orchard out of his district.
"Oh, man, that was a bummer," Boschert said of the three days of misspent smiles and handshakes.
But his pique didn't last long. The court ruling, a response to a challenge to the state's newly redrawn political map, etched a new House district, 33A, that was even more Republican-friendly than the one he had represented for four years.
The district lost a few Democratic hamlets in South County and gained nearly all of the Republican stronghold of Severna Park. It now centers around such conservative enclaves of mostly white, affluent families as Gambrills, Crofton and Crownsville. "I feel very comfortable," Boschert says.
So, apparently, do three other GOP candidates, who are spending large sums of money in the primary for the two-member district that some experts see as more pivotal than the general election.
Though Boschert's re-election is viewed as a near certainty, the decision of Del. Janet Greenip, a Crofton Republican, to run for state Senate has placed the second seat up for grabs.
The two biggest vote-getters Tuesday will face Democrats Jim Snider and Steve Rizzi and independent Michael Lagana in the November general election.
All four Republicans share moderate platforms that call for better schools and more frugality in state spending. They all back the death penalty. They all oppose gun control and new civil rights protections for gays and lesbians.
But there are differences. Boschert and William Anthony "Tony" McConkey, a real estate broker from Severna Park, oppose video slot machines at race tracks, saying the harm to families would outweigh any bonanza in new state revenue.
Sean C. Logan, a financial investigator from Crofton, and Elizabeth V. "Vicky" Overbeck, a legislative aide from Gambrills, would let voters settle the slots debate in a ballot referendum.
Overbeck is alone among the four in supporting a woman's right to choose an abortion. The others oppose abortion rights except when the mother's life is in peril.
Boschert, 55, a Vietnam War veteran who owns a public relations firm, is the only one to have held public office, having served on the County Council for 10 years as a Democrat before switching parties and winning in House District 33 as a Republican in 1998. That district was split in two - 33A and 33B - this year when the state's electoral map was recast in response to population shifts recorded by the 2000 census.
Boschert scored several victories in the General Assembly during the past four years as the sponsor of bills to toughen penalties for drunken drivers and enforcement of court orders against batterers. But some of his other bills failed to get off the ground, including one to ban panhandlers from county roads.
In April, he acknowledged that he broke county ethics laws by acting as an unregistered lobbyist for clients in a Severna Park zoning battle. Boschert agreed in a letter to the county ethics commission never again to lobby county officials.
Logan, 40, a Naval Academy graduate who is vice president of Maryland First Financial Services Corp., has amassed the largest war chest of the bunch. As of Aug. 30, he had raised nearly $60,000, about a third of it from $5 tickets for a raffle for a red Harley-Davidson Fat Boy motorcycle that has become a kind of mascot at fund-raisers.
He says that his job, as an investigator of financially troubled companies, gives him the know-how to curb what he sees as a free-spending Democrat-controlled legislature.
McConkey, 38, is mounting his fourth bid for public office. He has bankrolled his campaign with $25,000 of his own money, having collected less than $2,000 in contributions.
McConkey wants to build roads to relieve traffic that ties up U.S. 50 on summer weekends. He would also like to change the county school board from a body appointed by the governor to one elected by voters.
In 1996, he won notice as a co-chairman of a successful ballot petition drive in Prince George's County to require voter approval of new county taxes.
But two years later, in a campaign for the state legislature, he drew criticism for a failed land deal that led to his voluntary disbarment from the practice of law and the state's revocation of his real estate license.
McConkey says that those troubles are behind him. He says he has won back his real estate license and become a top seller at a Re/Max real estate office in Washington.
Overbeck, 54, of Gambrills, has worked as a legislative aide to two Democratic lawmakers during the past nine years. But GOP voters shouldn't hold that against her, she says - they're just jobs.
Still, she says her work solving problems for constituents has endowed her with an insider's knack for rousing bureaucracies into action. "I know who to call to get the ball rolling."
She wants a constitutional amendment to give lawmakers more control over the state budget - and the governor less. She faults judges for giving convicts shorter sentences than she feels the law requires. And she believes that the state relies too much on cigarette taxes to finance schools.