As the second-smallest county geographically in Maryland, Howard generally doesn't have the political heft of the state's biggest jurisdictions.
But when the real presidential election is held in Annapolis on Dec. 15, two of the 10 Maryland electors casting ballots for Barack Obama are to be Howard Dels. Guy Guzzone and Elizabeth Bobo, both Democrats.
Neither knows why they were selected by the state party, they said.
Despite the popular vote nationally, the Electoral College, under the law, elects the president, a fact that upset those same Democrats in 2000, when George W. Bush lost the national popular vote but won the electoral tally.
Each state gets one elector for each member of Congress. Guzzone was selected by his party to represent the 3rd District. Bobo will represent the 7th District.
Both plan to bring family members to watch what was in past years considered almost an afterthought. But this year is anything but.
"The Electoral College in some ways is outdated, and some think unnecessary, but it is a part of what the Founding Fathers set up," Guzzone said. "I consider it a big honor."
The delegate's children - Guy Jr., 16, Greer, 12, and Grant, 10 - will be in the Maryland Senate building to witness the vote, he said.
Bobo said some of her children and grandchildren will attend.
"I consider it a huge honor," she said. "I take it very seriously."
Bobo also was surprised to be chosen because she didn't ask for the honor and didn't compete to be a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.
Despite fitting the pollsters' demographic for Hillary Clinton supporters, Bobo announced for Obama in February. Guzzone was one of three co-chairs of the county's Obama campaign.
Howard County Republicans used a General Assembly delegation hearing on local legislation to show that the GOP remains energized despite the drubbing at the polls on Election Day.
The 11 local bills slated for introduction in the 2009 General Assembly will be voted on by the delegation next month, after the 90-day session begins.
Enthusiastic sign-wavers outside school board headquarters and emotional speakers inside at the Nov. 25 hearing made the point clear, though Democrats freely agreed to change an offending bill. Their purpose was to keep people soliciting money out of county roadways, but one portion of the bill would also ban "advertising." That means political sign-waving would be illegal.
The sign-wavers didn't mince words on their signs.
"Dems run wild," and "Free Speech," they read. Inside, a spirited crowd swollen by an e-mail campaign cheered each criticism of the bill, despite sponsors' promises to change it.
"I see it as another attempt to harass, to limit my freedom of speech," said Ken Aldrich, former director of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps of Maryland. "Harassment, harassment, harassment."
Elizabeth Reardon said we've had "wars with tyrants and fascists" to protect freedom of speech.
"They've feared our freedoms," she said.
The bill, sponsored by Dels. Shane Pendergrass, Guy Guzzone and Frank S. Turner - all Democrats - would ban soliciting and vending in state road right-of-ways in the county, along with "advertising" by the roadside. The idea, the sponsors said, was to make state law for state roads match the local law enacted by the County Council for county roadways.
"I'm worried about young people standing in roads," Pendergrass told the crowd. "The intent is to make roads safe."
Before any protester got a chance to speak, Guzzone said he recognized there are constitutional issues involving free speech in the bill and he promised to amend it "to make it clear that wasn't the intent."
"The presumption here is that no one wants to limit free speech in any way, shape or form," he said.
Republican state Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, who had obtained an attorney general's opinion that banning political sign-waving would be unconstitutional, then apologized for not calling Guzzone and Pendergrass before the hearing to work the issue out.
"I consider him a friend and I'll work with him," he said.
Pendergrass said later she was "very disappointed" at the angry tone of some speakers.
"People get very angry and frustrated," sometimes, she said, but elected officials can help keep things civil.
This time the GOP faithful were resolved to have their say.
"I come from a country [Venezuela] where speech has been limited," said Ivan Betancourt, who called the bill's provision banning advertising "reprehensible."
The Rev. Rick Bowers, an unsuccessful candidate for House of Delegates in 2006 who competed with Guzzone, Pendergrass and Turner, seemed to take the issue personally.
"This would disallow people like me to compete with you for public office," he said.
Pendergrass offered a mea culpa on the measure, saying she had missed the implications for free speech.
"I'm always happy to have you run against me," she said to Bowers and the other Republicans.