Already pegged a key battleground in statewide races, Baltimore County offers a contrast in political styles and philosophies in its State House races. But the key issues raised in those contests - quality education, growth and the rising cost of health care - cut across legislative district lines.
District 6: In the House Democratic primary in this far-eastern Baltimore County district, incumbents Joseph "Sonny" Minnick, Mike Weir Jr. and John Olszewski Jr. deserve their party's nomination. Mr. Olszewski, 23, the son of the county councilman and the youngest delegate in Annapolis, has the shortest tenure (he was appointed to fill a vacancy just months ago), but his thoughtful approach to issues demonstrates he's more than a second-generation politician. The best of their Republican challengers are Steve Dishon, a sales manager from Dundalk, Paul M. Blitz, a high school history teacher from Essex, and Richard W. Metzgar, an Essex car salesman, all of whom are running together as a ticket. The only other candidate has chosen not to actively campaign.
The Senate candidates are unopposed.
District 7: Of the district's three incumbent House Republicans, only J. B. Jennings, a Joppa cattle farmer and feed store owner, merits our enthusiastic endorsement. Rick Impallaria, a former auto body shop owner, deserves to be returned to office but only if he can devote less energy to making inflammatory speeches and more into getting things done in Annapolis. For the third Republican spot, John T. Laing, a former county police officer and a newcomer to politics, is a better choice than incumbent Pat McDonough for the sprawlng district that runs from Middle River to Cockeysville and extends into Harford County.
Democratic voters would be well-served by James Ward Morrow, an Essex lawyer and former prosecutor; Jack Sturgill, a former assistant county attorney who is experienced in issues of suburban planning, and Norman Gifford Jr. of Middle River, an emergency operations officer for the state.
There is no Senate primary.
District 8: In this northeastern district, Cal Clemons, a former Republican House nominee, earns top marks as a serious but non-doctrinaire conservative who is considerably more seasoned than his opponent in the Senate race. The incumbent Democratic senator is unopposed.
In the House races, we endorse the two incumbent Republicans, Joseph C. Boteler III, the owner of a printing company, and John Cluster, a retired county police officer, as pragmatic conservatives. The third nominee ought to be Melissa Redmer Mullahey, the daughter of a former delegate. The marketing account executive wants to focus on helping her constituents access state government.
Democrats would be well-served by returning incumbent Eric M. Bromwell, also a second-generation politician who has established his own identity as a coalition-builder. The other standouts are Alec Frick, a Parkville lawyer and former legislative aide, and Todd Schuler of Overlea, a lawyer who won the nomination four years ago but lost in the general election.
District 10: In this west-side district, Democratic Sen. Delores G. Kelley deserves renomination, and, with no serious opposition in the House of Delegates race, the incumbents - Adrienne A. Jones, Shirley Nathan-Pulliam and Emmett Burns - get our endorsement as well. Mr. Burns is a tepid choice (in part because of his opposition to rights and benefits for same-sex couples). Beyond championing the addition of Thurgood Marshall's name to BWI airport, his list of legislative accomplishments is short.
There are no Republican candidates for either the House or the Senate.
District 11: In a hard-fought race to succeed state Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, the clear pick in the Democratic field is Bobby A. Zirkin, who in two terms in the House has established himself as a rising star and expert in the oft-neglected arena of juvenile justice. The Republican primary in this northwestern district is not contested.
There is no shortage of qualified Democratic candidates for the three House seats. Incumbents Dan K. Morhaim, a physician and expert on health matters, and Jon S. Cardin, a lawyer and champion of campaign finance reform, have performed well and deserve renomination. It's a tough call, but the best of the rest is Dana Stein, a lawyer who served briefly in the House four years ago and founded and runs a Baltimore nonprofit community service agency. There are only two Republican House candidates.
District 42: In this district that includes Towson and Timonium, Douglas B. Riley, a lawyer and former County Council member, is our pick in the Republican Senate primary. Mr. Riley, who served two terms on the council but lost to James T. Smith Jr. for county executive in 2002, can work across party lines.
There is no Democratic primary.
For the House of Delegates, we favor Republican incumbents Susan Aumann and William J. Frank, who have been able to find some common ground with the Democratic majority. A talented field for the open third seat includes Dilip Paliath, who served most recently as chief counsel in the Governor's Office of Crime Control, and Russell J. Pope, a Towson attorney who is concerned about the environment. In a close call, we recommend Mr. Paliath.
In the Democratic primary, we think the best choices are Andrew Belt, an attorney and former history teacher who is thoughtful on health care issues; Stephen W. Lafferty, deputy director for planning and zoning in Howard County and knowledgeable about development and environmental issues; and Tracy Miller, an administrator at Towson University who is a longtime community activist and a recent advocate for veterans' issues since her son died in Iraq.