Democrats find themselves in the unusual position of scrambling to find candidates to challenge the four Republican incumbents in Anne Arundel County Council races this fall.
And in the three remaining districts - in North and West county, plus the Annapolis area - Democrats have primary fights before reaching the November general election.
One battleground is council District 1, in the northern tier of the county, where the candidates are seeking the seat being vacated by Democrat Pamela G. Beidle. The diverse district includes businesses, a tangle of highways, Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, areas under development and housing ranging from densely packed neighborhoods to rural settings.
Community activist and systems analyst Richard "Rik" Forgo, 40, and political activist and lawyer Daryl Jones, 41, are vying for the Democratic nomination.
"I expect it to be a close race. I will work hard to win the post," Forgo said.
"Every race is a hard-fought race," Jones said.
The winner will face Republican lawyer John E. Lindner, 46, who started running 13 months ago.
District 1 has not elected a Republican to the council in recent memory, giving the Democrats a distinct edge.
"I know I'm outnumbered 2-to-1 in registration," Lindner said. "But I am campaigning."
C. Edward Middlebrooks II, a Republican currently unopposed in his bid for a second term on the council from neighboring District 2, said Lindner may have an uphill battle. But he added, "I think if you run the right campaign, it's doable."
Middlebrooks is in a largely Democratic, Glen Burnie-centered district. He was on the council when he switched from Democrat to Republican in 1994. He won a state Senate race that year, then lost four years later. But in 2002, he captured the council seat again. He said voters are attuned to who they think will do the best job, especially in political matters close to home.
The failure to field more council candidates by last Monday's filing deadline has set Ann Marie Remillard, the leader of the county's Democratic Central Committee, hunting for contenders who would have not only the uphill task of running against sitting officials, but the disadvantage of starting less than four months before November's general election.
"I just called someone and said, 'Are you willing to fall on the sword?'" Remillard said.
Young Democrats in particular, she said, could use this as an opportunity to win name recognition for seeking office in coming years.
By the central committee's July 13 meeting, she hopes to have a late-entrant list for appointment. State law allows political central committees to add candidates that way by July 18.
"The mere fact that they don't have anybody out there campaigning is very good for us," said Chuck Gast, head of the Anne Arundel County Republican Central Committee.
That gives County Council incumbents Middlebrooks in District 2, Ronald C. Dillon Jr. in District 3, Cathleen M. Vitale in District 5 and Edward R. Reilly in District 7 an advantage.
"I don't want to give them a free ride," Remillard said.
Those blanks on the ballot resulted from an oversight, Remillard said, in which her central committee members thought other Democratic leaders were looking out for those seats. But the party does not have a philosophy to ensure that every Republican candidate is opposed, said state Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, a five-term Democrat from District 31 who is retiring.
The increasingly conservative county has been a target of Republicans in recent years. They have made tremendous strides in registration and candidate recruitment.
In many Democratic strongholds in Maryland, the GOP did not field candidates but has filled all but one spot on the long ballot in Anne Arundel County.
Republicans hope to fill that slot, which is for a legislative district shared with Prince George's County, and are working with party leaders in that heavily Democratic area to try to recruit a candidate, Gast said.
In the past, Democrats have not fielded candidates in other Anne Arundel local races in which Republicans were strong.
Dan Nataf, head of the Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College, said that conventional wisdom is that any candidate's name is better than having no Democrat on the ballot.
"And then Republicans will win by astounding numbers, which invigorate the Republicans who will think they are an ascendant party," Nataf said.
The reason for a lack of candidates against the incumbents on the council may have any of a number of reasons.
It could be a "failure-to-launch thing," a reluctance of Democrats to put in the shoe-leather time because of work or family commitments or lack of interest, he said. But it also could be that the two-term limit on the council is leading people to wait for seats to open.
"Maybe they keep their gunpowder dry for four years and use your ammunition then," Nataf said.
"An open seat is an inspiration." Remillard said.
In District 4, four Democrats - Gerald J. "Jamie" Benoit Jr., Walter K. Moody, Andrew C. Pruski and Devin F. Tucker - are seeking their party's nomination to succeed Democrat Bill Burlison, who is stepping down. The winner will face the victor of the September GOP primary, Sid Saab or David A. Tibbetts.
In heavily Democratic District 6, Republican Rene C. Swafford will face whoever wins the Democratic primary: Joshua J. Cohen, Philip Dales or Classie G. Hoyle. Cohen and Hoyle are Annapolis city aldermen. That seat is now held by outgoing Democrat Barbara D. Samorajczyk.
So far, in District 7, Republican Reilly's only competition comes from Robert Tufts, of the Green Party, in the general election.
Other candidates have looked to two other open low-profile local positions.
Seven candidates -five Republicans and two Democrats - are vying for the register of wills job, which is open for the first time in 20 years with the retirement of Republican George M. Nutwell Jr. Republicans Daniel E. Bowen, Walter N. Chitwood, Nora C. Keenan, Lauren M. Parker and Thad Russell are running. Jacqueline B. Allsup and Jeff Gauges are vying for the Democratic ticket.
Two Republicans and one Democrat are running for county sheriff, seeking to replace Sheriff George F. Johnson IV, who is running against former Annapolis mayor Dennis Callahan for the Democratic nomination for county executive. Wally Campbell and a former candidate for the job, John E. Moran IV, are the Republicans vying for the position. Ronald S. Bateman, the current second in command in the sheriff's office, is the Democratic candidate.
The county executive race is expected to dominate much of the local campaigning, though the state- and federal-level races are likely to overshadow it. The five Republicans in the race are former teacher Tom Angelis, former state delegate and Ehrlich administration official Phillip D. Bissett (the 2002 party nominee), Dels. David G. Boschert and John R. Leopold, and assistant superintendent for public schools Gregory V. Nourse.
Unlike the politicized judge's race of 2004, in which voters threw two sitting judges (and appointees of former Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening) off the Circuit Court bench, recently appointed William C. Mulford II has no opposition. The Republican is a former county councilman from the Annapolis area. Judges run with no party affiliation.
ANNE ARUNDEL CANDIDATES
Here is a listing of state and local candidates who filed for elective office in Anne Arundel County as of Thursday. The filing was Monday, but political parties can nominate candidates through July 18:
Tom Angelis Phillip D. Bissett David G. Boschert John R. Leopold Gregory V. Nourse
Dennis Callahan George F. Johnson IV
District 1 Republican
John E. Lindner
Richard "Rik" Forgo Daryl Jones
District 2 Republican
Louisa H. Baucom (withdrawn) C. Edward Middlebrooks*
District 3 Republican
Ronald C. Dillon Jr.*
District 4 Republican
David A. Tibbetts
Walter K. Moody
Andrew C. Pruski
Devin F. Tucker
District 5 Republican
Cathleen M. Vitale*
District 6 Republican
Richard P. Clinch (withdrawn) Rene C. Swafford
Joshua J. Cohen Philip Dales Classie G. Hoyle
District 7 Republican
Edward R. Reilly*
Green (general election only)
Judge of the Circuit Court
William C. Mulford II *
(appears on Democratic and Republican ballots with no party affiliation)
David W. Fischer
Frank R. Weathersbee *
Clerk of the Circuit Court
Robert F. Duckworth* Howard Neugebauer
Register of Wills
Daniel E. Bowen Walter N. Chitwood III Nora C. Keenan Lauren M. Parker Thad Russell
Jacqueline B. Allsup
Judges of the Orphans Court (3)
Nancy C. Phelps * Gail J. Schaffer * Jerry Walker Gordon H. Witherspoon *
Alex C. Gudger
Brian J. Metzbower
Wally Campbell Tom Lindsay Jr. (withdrawn) John E. Moran IV Edwin W. Schillo III (withdrawn)
Ronald S. Bateman
Democratic Central Committee
Chester A. France Jr. Billy "B.J." Joe Taylor II
Kory M. Blake Scott Bowling Mark R. Shenton * Anne C. Sieling * Ralph R. Thomas Sr. *
Thomas M. Burnham * Christine Davenport * Stan Janor Jamision Moody
Earl W. Barnes * Jennifer Miller Kathleen A. Shatt * Alvin Tilghman *
Randy McRae Paul C. Oakley Andrew C. Pruski * Anne Marie Remillard * John Schneider Stephen W. Thibodeau
Republican Central Committee
Eric J. Flamino *
Mary K. Alter Debbie Belcher Robin M. Bissett * Adelsia Braxton Mike Collins * Nora C. Keenan * Christine A. Kennedy Joel R. Saline Pamela J. Scarbro
Laura Blevins Brian L. Casto Brian Griffiths Joan Harris * Victor John Henderson Tom Redmond Kevin C. Reigrut Erik Robey * Joseph A. Vella
Louisa H. Baucom Daniel E. Bowen * Laura Graham Randall G. Griffin Ben Kirwan J. Gary Middlebrooks Alan M. Rzepkowski Harry Sinclair Jr. Gerald P. Starr *
Douglas B. Arnold* Scott Conwell Louis K. Essandoh, MD Chuck Gast * Carolyn A. Middleton James Pelura III * Ashley Reed Rhoda VanLeer Jerry Walker David T. Woodson
District 21 Republican
John A. Giannetti Jr.* Jessie Pulivarti
District 30 Republican
Les Belcher (withdrawn) Herb McMillan
District 31 Republican
Matthew L. McBride
Walter J. Shandrowsky
District 32 Republican
James Ed DeGrange Sr. *
District 33 Republican
Janet Greenip *
House of Delegates
District 21 Republican
Neil B. Sood
Ben Barnes Jon Black Mark Cook Tekisha Everette Barbara A. Frush* Brian R. Moe* Joseline Pena-Melnyk Michael B. Sarich
District 30 Republican
Nancy Almgren Les Belcher Adelsia Braxton Mike Collins Ron Elfenbein Ron George Andy Smarick
Michael E. Busch* Virginia P. Clagett* Shirley May Little Barbara D. Samorajczyk Konrad M. Wayson
(general election only)
David Whitney (seeking the nomination)
District 31 Republican
James C. Braswell Pat Corcoran Don Dwyer Jr. * Nicholaus R. Kipke Steve Schuh
Joan Cadden * Mike Cadogan Thomas J. Fleckenstein Rose M. Forrest Edward "Ed" Garcia George C. Law Matthew L. McBride (withdrawn) Craig A. Reynolds Justin M. Towles
Robert L. Eckert (declaration of intent, general election only)
District 32 Republican
Mark S. Chang Terry R. Gilleland Jr.
Robert Middleswarth Tiger Pimentel Wayne C. Smith
Pamela Beidle Mary Ann Love* Theodore Sophocleus*
District 33A Republican
Carrie Geldart (withdrawn) Daniel A. Grimes John H. Hollywood James King Greg Kline Tony McConkey *
Torrey Jacobsen Paul G. Rudolph Patricia Weathersbee
District 33B Republican
Bob Costa *
For more information, please go to the Maryland State Board of Elections' Web site: www.elections.state.md.us