Sure, the election is 2 1/2 years away, but the early bird could get to be the next mayor of Annapolis.
At least a half a dozen people are quietly - or loudly --- making plans to run to succeed two-termer Ellen O. Moyer. Some observers predict the field of candidates will include the entire city council.
No one will acknowledge a run, but at least two aldermen have already held fundraisers. Chuck Weikel, one of Annapolis' most visible Democrats, has scheduled a fundraiser, and the Annapolis Housing Authority board chairwoman, Trudy McFall, announced last week she won't seek another term, fueling speculation that she's weighing a run.
Dan Nataf, director of the Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College, said it's not uncommon for the race to take shape this early.
"When you are ready for a position which is the top of the ticket, it always helps to show commitment early on because it requires a lot of time to start contributions flowing and to get an organization together," he said.
Perhaps the most obvious signs that campaign season has arrived are the flurry of high-profile bills and the partisan trash talking. Alderman David Cordle accused Weikel of "playing politics" after he criticized Cordle's legislation to require sprinklers in new city buildings. Mayor Ellen O. Moyer said the same about Alderman Sam Shropshire after he proposed that the city apologize for its role in the slave trade. Moyer's spokesman, Ray Weaver, so accused McFall during talks about crime in public housing.
Former Republican alderman Herb McMillan, who lost to Moyer in 2001, then served one term in the House of Delegates, is criticizing the entire city government. While he said he hasn't decided whether to run, he sounds like a man ready to take the political stage again.
He called the Market House "a standing joke, and not a good one.
"I actually could have won that last race [against Moyer] and I look at the issues now and they haven't changed in eight years."
In the September 2009 primary, he could face two-term alderman Cordle, who grabbed $16,000 at a fundraiser earlier this month and plans to schedule more. In the meantime, he's the face of proposed sprinkler legislation and said he'll get credit for "sticking by my guns on my adequate public facilities ordinance."
Cordle said he has broad support, that he will stay in city politics, and that it "is certainly possible that I have plans further than my council seat. And that leaves one option."
Shropshire, of Ward 7, has gotten air time for two piggyback bills - the slavery apology and anti-smoking legislation - but the state beat him to the punch by passing both first.
"There's a group of people pushing me to [run], and I told them I'll let them know in a year and a half," Shropshire said. "I'll make that decision when I think I'm the right person to do it and when I think absolutely I have something to offer."
He raised $8,000 at a fundraiser on April 12.
Also, on the Democratic side, some read McFall's decision to not seek reappointment to the housing authority board of commissioners as proof she'll seek the mayor's seat. Earlier this year, Weaver, Police Chief Joseph S. Johnson and Moyer slammed her calls for more policing in the public housing communities as political grandstanding.
Asked last week about a run, McFall, chairwoman and founder of the nonprofit Homes for America, said: "We'll see. ... I'm thinking about what I want to do next to serve Annapolis."
Another possible contender is Weikel, chair of the politically neutral Annapolis Charter 300 celebration, the city's parking committee and the District 30 representative on the Anne Arundel County Democratic Central Committee. He is holding a fundraiser on May 10 and has a Web site, www.democratsforchuck.
"People frequently ask me about running for mayor due to my community involvement," he said. "But it's unrealistic to consider a 30-month campaign."
Nataf said much can happen in that time to shift the Democratic-heavy voting field. As high-end communities sprout up, more Republicans could move in, he said. Registered Democrats have a nearly 2-to-1 edge over Republicans in Annapolis, but independent voters are a significant factor.
Because of the city's small population of about 35,000, it could come down to old-fashioned door knocking and flier drops, he said.
"The numbers that candidates have to mobilize are tiny, and if you are at it for awhile, an intrinsically nice person and active, you can at least be taken seriously. It's not a hard thing," he said. "But thank God for primaries."