As an 82-year-old Republican trying to unseat a two-term Democratic county councilman, Raymond J. Krul can just about count on being asked some version of this question: How's your health?
In response, Krul does a little jig. When he's done, he says: "How do I look?"
Later, the semiretired Rosedale businessman will tell you that he's physically fit and that he has plenty of time and energy to spend on the pursuit of balanced budgets and patched potholes.
Krul, who has run for but never won office, is challenging Democrat John A. Olszewski Sr. for the council seat representing the seventh district, which includes Dundalk, Sparrows Point, Rosedale and part of Essex.
Olszewski, a Dundalk native, prevailed in a primary election battle with a strong showing against a Millers Island community activist.
While not known to dance to make a point, Olszewski also has his quirks.
He's best known as "Johnny O," in part, because his Polish surname might be hard to pronounce, but also because he likes voters to feel that they know him.
A 1978 Dundalk High graduate, he got his start in politics in the mid-1970s working on the campaigns of such officials as former Baltimore County Executive Theodore G. Venetoulis. The 46-year-old father of three was also active in local youth sports and later rose through the ranks of the Battle Grove Democratic Club.
Olszewski won his first bid for the council in 1998, upsetting longtime Dundalk politician Louis L. DePazzo. He coasted to victory in 2002 for a second-term.
In his campaign for a third term, Olszewski had about $126,000 on hand at the beginning of September, after spending about $100,000 in the primary, according to campaign finance reports.
Olszewski won about 71 percent of the vote against Bernice Myer in the primary.
"I think it's a validation of my last eight years of hard work," says Olszewski.
He says two of his main accomplishments in office are the 2005 acquisition of the crime-ridden Kingsley Park Apartments and this year's purchase of about 75 percent of Yorkway Park apartments. (The county is still trying to buy the remaining units.)
If re-elected, Olszewski says, he'll continue to work on improving neighborhoods and schools and will work to combat rat infestation and to expand a pilot rental registration program, which requires rental units to be inspected regularly. He also said he'd like the community to create a plan for the redevelopment of the old Seagram's plant in Dundalk.
"Sometimes it's also the little things," he says, adding that he's working on getting grandstands at Dundalk High School. "Then, you'll have the parents coming out to the games, which builds excitement. Then, more students want to play. And to play, they have to keep their grades up. If you keep morale up, you keep students' [test scores] up."
Olszewski, who works as a safety coordinator for an automobile export and import company, lives in Edgemere with his wife, Sherry, a cafeteria worker, and two of their three sons.
Their oldest son, John Olszewski Jr., lives in Dundalk and was recently appointed to fill a vacant House of Delegates seat. The younger Olszewski is also running for re-election.
Krul, who was born in Fells Point, is a World War II Army veteran. He played catcher briefly for the minor league Durham Bulls before becoming the "Ice Man," as the owner of the Rosedale Ice Company in the late 1940s through the 1950s. He also says he operated a truck stop before going into the construction business, selling supplies.
Krul's son, Bob, now runs the cabinet and kitchen remodeling business he started on Pulaski Highway near the Beltway and a nearby discount cabinet outlet. Krul, who still serves on the Route 40 Business and Civic Association, describes himself as a retired venture capitalist.
He unsuccessfully tried to unseat state senator Norman R. Stone in 1970 and 1974. Krul's last run for state office was in 1978 for lieutenant governor on candidate Dr. Ross Z. Pierpont's ticket. He has stayed active in local political fundraising.
If elected, Krul said he'd work to fight crime, fix roads, help single mothers with child care and try to reduce the amount of subsidized housing in the area.
He hands out campaign fliers with the Ravens schedule on the back, candy bars and baseballs.
Of his run, he says, "It's another challenge."
John A. Olszewski Sr.
Education: graduate of Dundalk High School
Work experience: Auto air conditioner installer for Import/Export Co., field auditor, ISO auditor, group leader, safety coordinator
Previous political experience: elected to the State Central Committee, elected as delegate to the Democratic National Convention, two-term county councilman and current chairman of the council
Raymond J. Krul
Education: graduate of Kenwood High School
Work experience: former owner of Rosedale Ice Company, Stonewall Inn, Route 40 truck stop, Rosedale Construction company, Computer Design Kitchen, Rosedale Motel, Krul Discount Paneling, retired venture capitalist
Previous political experience: Unsuccessfully ran for state Senate twice and ran for lieutenant governor in the 1970s.