Election excitement woke Republican state Sen. Sandra B. Schrader at 2 a.m. yesterday to begin posting campaign signs at polling places, while an equally charged Democrat C. Vernon Gray spent the day talking to voters and campaigning -- the first day of their Nov. 5 general election battle.
"The adrenaline's running, and you can't sleep anyway. I'm excited to get this day over with," said Schrader, who defeated gun-rights advocate Edward L. Patrick for the GOP nomination.
"I find it exciting. I'm meeting a lot of folks," Gray said as he cruised between polling places in mid-afternoon. Gray had no primary opponent.
If the candidates found it exciting, the voters did not.
Howard turnout was 27 percent, a hair higher than four years ago, but far below predictions for a 35 percent turnout statewide. Political observers attributed the lackluster showing to lack of competitive races.
At the Savage Library, turnout was low, with 168 of 1,866 eligible voters appearing by 4 p.m. The polling place opened 30 minutes late after confusion about unlocking the building.
"It's been the slowest primary in a long while," said Mike Ivan, chief judge at Savage.
Despite scores of signs, waving candidates and months of campaigning, most Howard voters stayed away.
"I just don't want to [vote]," said Chip Wildy, 47, who was shopping in the River Hill Giant amid shoppers wearing campaign T-shirts.
Others were confused.
"I don't understand why, after what happened [Sept. 11 last year], people aren't voting. I thought [democracy] had everyone's attention," said Wade Lape, 33, a Republican from Elkridge.
The Schrader-Gray race for the District 13 state Senate seat could decide which party controls Howard County's slightly expanded, 11-member General Assembly delegation, and both candidates were eager to begin the final stage of their contest.
The seat is key because Republicans hold two of Howard's three state Senate seats. If Gray beats Schrader, Democrats will likely have the majority, allowing them control of local legislation.
Republican state Sen. Robert H. Kittleman has no opponent, and state Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, a Columbia Democrat, won his primary against Frank C. Fillmore, and is strongly positioned in his general election contest against Republican novice Mike Sneeringer of Catonsville.
Among the delegates, District 13, which because of population growth and the Maryland Court of Appeals' redistricting plan is entirely within Howard County, is again the key battleground.
Incumbent Democrats Shane Pendergrass and Frank S. Turner won nominations among a field of five, while Neil F. Quinter, a former assistant attorney general, took the third spot.
Republicans Mary Beth Tung, Bob Adams and John Stafford, who said he lives in a motel in Prince George's County, were ahead on the GOP side.
Heavily Republican western Howard's District 9A favors Republican Dels. Gail H. Bates and Robert L. Flanagan, while District 12 Del. Elizabeth Bobo has no opponent. One Democratic incumbent, Del. James E. Malone Jr., and retired police officer Stephen J. DeBoy, who came close to winning four years ago, are Democrats seeking the other two District 12 seats against novice Republicans Joe Hooe, and Harry Korrell.
Sun staff writer Jason Song contributed to this article.