Glenwood in western Howard County is generally seen as a Republican stronghold, where voters elected last year the county's only GOP state senator, two Republican delegates and the party's only County Council member.
But County Executive Ken Ulman, a liberal Democrat from Columbia, got a friendly reception from the nonpartisan Glenwood Lions Club on Thursday night. He used the occasion to expound on his ambitions for the county, and he used the 30 people gathered at the new county-built community center there as an impromptu focus group on the idea of an Erickson retirement community being built at Doughoregan Manor, the historic Carroll family estate in western Ellicott City.
Ulman pointed out the huge public investment in the community in recent years, including the large new community center, the library next door, the large regional park behind the two buildings, the new, larger Bushy Park Elementary School just down the road, and the 400-seat expansion and renovation of nearby Glenelg High School.
As he often does, Ulman talked about the need to keep Howard's services top-notch, and he reviewed his environmental programs, but this time with a definite western county slant.
He paraphrased Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, a conservative Republican member of Congress who once represented western Howard, on the dangers of global warming and the need to reduce carbon gas emissions.
To that end, Ulman also said residents might soon see - at no cost to the county - private firms erecting huge solar panel arrays over closed portions of the Alpha Ridge Landfill, where the county also intends to extract methane gas to power the new Public Safety Training Center nearby. Alpha Ridge also is in the western county.
On Doughoregan, Ulman, who toured an Erickson campus in Silver Spring last week, said: "I'm feeling like it may be the best option - rather than dotting the landscape with single-family homes."
Answering a question from Dr. Joel Goodman, a Glenelg dentist, about whether the public would get to see the 280-year-old mansion if the county grants water and sewer services, Ulman said the Carrolls "feel very, very strongly about not allowing any public access."
He assured Gail Willie of Mount Airy that if the retirement community of 1,500 to 2,000 apartments, assisted-living units and nursing beds is built, there will be no "extra" development included. "That's making me lean toward feeling this is a good idea," he said. "It would sort of be: This is it, this settles it, and we can move on."
Ulman asked the group, "Is there anyone who thinks it's a bad idea?" No one raised a hand.
A bullish group of about 100 Democratic stalwarts gathered for baked beans, hot dogs and partisan rhetoric at the party's annual Labor Day picnic last week.
The gathering under a pavilion in Savage Park drew a crowd of elected officials who again emphasized the party's success in the 2006 elections.
Present were the county's two U.S. representatives, Elijah E. Cummings and John Sarbanes; Ulman and his family; two state senators; three state delegates; four County Council members; State's Attorney Timothy J. McCrone; Sheriff James F. Fitzgerald; and school board member Patricia Gordon.
Republicans hold one of the five County Council seats, one of three state Senate seats, two of eight delegate seats and the court clerk's office.
"We really have a real special Democratic team in this county," Ulman told the crowd. "We're going to work very hard to make sure we get a Democratic president. This is going to be a year to build the Democratic Party," he said.
Sarbanes and Cummings complimented Howard's Democrats.
"This is one of the most together, passionate group of Democrats I've seen anywhere in my district," Sarbanes said, adding that, "You are a vanguard for a resurgence of the Democratic Party."
"Wherever I go, without a doubt, the Howard County organization is one of the very best," Cummings told the crowd.
Both also sounded national themes, Cummings on the war in Iraq, and Sarbanes on the fight over funding for SCHIP, the federal health insurance program for children.
"We need to get our troops out of there as fast as we can," Cummings said of Iraq. "They're basically policing a civil war." There aren't enough troops left at home to handle any other emergency that might arise, he added.
Sarbanes said the Bush administration "is ready to sacrifice the welfare of children" for fear that expansion of the health insurance program will show how well government can work.
It may be a nonelection year, but party Chairman Michael McPherson said gatherings like the annual picnic are important.
"You have to show the flag - you have to be constant," he said, as he sat collecting $15 a person or $25 for a family.
Judicial nominations are supposed to be insulated from politics through the device of citizens who serve on 16 judicial nominating commissions statewide, which recommend qualified people to serve.
But Gov. Martin O'Malley chooses the members of the commissions, as well as the judges, and the appearance of politics is there.
Among the nine appointees O'Malley chose for Howard's commission are Sang W. Oh, a former executive assistant to former County Executive James N. Robey, and Sandra T. Gray, wife of former five-term County Councilman C. Vernon Gray.