Growth and congestion may be on Howard County voters' minds, but the issue was far from front and center during a flurry of four campaign events this week.
No one knows that better than Harry M. Dunbar, who bills himself as "the slow-growth candidate" for county executive.
Only five people and a security guard attended Dunbar's $60-a-ticket performance of the Julie Hall Jazz Quartet at Howard Community College's Smith Theatre, but Dunbar said he is undaunted and will keep trying. The poor response last Sunday came despite his purchase of a local newspaper ad and distribution of 2,500 fliers advertising the event.
"Let's work together and save Howard County from the developers," Dunbar said during a short speech preceding the performance.
Angela Beltram, leader of a successful drive to petition a comprehensive rezoning bill to referendum on November's ballot, was one of the five there, and she attributed the turnout to poor publicity, not a lack of concern about development.
"I'm not discouraged at all," Dunbar said. "I know it takes hard work."
Other candidates had better luck.
Mary Kay Sigaty drew about 60 people to the official launch of her District 4 (west Columbia and Fulton) County Council race Monday night at the Dorsey Search Village Center community hall. She won endorsements from Del. Frank S. Turner, former councilwoman Mary C. Lorsung, and Joan Lancos, a Republican who ran for the same council seat in 2002, but lost to Democrat Ken Ulman.
This year, Sigaty is competing with former Columbia board Chairman Joshua Feldmark for the Democratic nomination. Both candidates favor careful planning for proposed redevelopment of central Columbia.
Feldmark also got an endorsement - from Ulman - who defeated Sigaty by 36 votes in the 2002 primary. Ulman conceded Tuesday that as a candidate for county executive, he might have been wiser politically to stay out of the fray, except for one thing.
"Josh and Jessica are like part of the family," he said, referring to Jessica Feldmark, Josh's wife, who is also Ulman's assistant.
Ulman was to have formally launched his campaign for county executive yesterday in Wilde Lake.
Across U.S. 29, in east Columbia's District 2, preserving older communities is more the focus. There, Democrat Calvin Ball, the former revitalization coordinator for Oakland Mills, attracted about 70 people to his fundraiser at the Fire Rock Grill, a new Oakland Mills restaurant.
Those attending included C. Vernon Gray, a former five-term council member who four years ago helped recruit Councilman David A. Rakes to run. Rakes, also a Democrat, defeated Ball in the primary that year, but now Ball is hoping he can prevail.
"This is overwhelming," Ball told the crowd.
Rakes has said he will run for re-election or for the House of Delegates.
Del. Neil F. Quinter's re-election chances took another blow last week as County Executive James N. Robey, who is running for state Senate in Quinter's southeastern District 13, announced that he has joined the opposition Democratic ticket of Dels. Shane E. Pendergrass, Frank S. Turner and County Councilman Guy Guzzone.
"We are in sync on the issues," Robey said in an announcement.
A puzzled Quinter said Robey has always supported his work in Annapolis.
"He's always - many, many times - expressed praise to me for the job I'm doing," Quinter said.
Funds to spare
While most politicians are scrambling for every dollar they can get, Howard County state Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, a Republican, appears to have money to spare.
Kittleman's campaign finance report showed $30,520 transferred to other campaigns over the past year - including $20,000 to the Republican Senate Slate Committee.
He also gave $5,000 to help District 5 County Council candidate Greg Fox, also a Republican, and $1,000 each to three other local Republican candidates. They include council candidates Donna Thewes in District 3 and Tony Salazar in District 1 and Mary Beth Tung, a District 13 candidate for House of Delegates.
"I have $55,000 in the bank," Kittleman said, noting that with no declared opponent, he has enough to start with. "We have a commitment to support the slate committee."
State Republican Party Chairman John Kane said the GOP wants to have $2.5 million available to help Republican candidates for both houses of the General Assembly this year.
The goal, he said at a recent breakfast meeting of the Howard County Professional Republican Association in Ellicott City, is to win seven more state Senate seats and 14 more House of Delegates seats, along with re-electing Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
Kittleman did not give money directly this year to embattled Republican state Sen. Sandra B. Schrader, who faces a major challenge from Robey, but he said Schrader can get help from the slate committee.
Kane also said Schrader would be OK financially.
"She won't need money," he said.