Republicans open campaign office in Ellicott City

O.P. Ditch, right, standing on chair, of Elkridge leads a crowd in the pledge of allegiance during the grand opening of the Howard County Republican Campaign Headquarters.
O.P. Ditch, right, standing on chair, of Elkridge leads a crowd in the pledge of allegiance during the grand opening of the Howard County Republican Campaign Headquarters. (Staff photo by Sarah Pastrana, Patuxent Publishing)

Whether they're running for president or seeking a seat on the Howard County Board of Education, every candidate has their own office space at the Howard County Republican campaign headquarters in Ellicott City.

The office, located off Route 40 in the Normandy Shopping Center, houses campaign signs, bumper stickers and literature for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino, U.S. House of Representative candidates Frank Mirabile (District 7), Eric Knowles (District 3) and Nancy Jacobs (District 2) and Board of Education candidate Bob Ballinger.


The Howard County Republican Party, which is paying some bills for the mostly donated space, hosted a grand opening event at the office on Aug. 24.

Barbara Nye, an Elkridge resident who was manning the sign-in area by the entrance, said about 200 people walked in during the two-hour evening event.


"We had a lot of people that asked to fill out the volunteer forms," she said, noting that she was impressed by the excitement level at the event.

Ellicott City resident Carol Loveless agreed, noting she's "very optimistic" about Republicans chances of taking over the White House in this campaign.

"I think Romney will win in a landslide," she said.

Addressing the large group of people who crowded the office for the grand opening, Howard County Republican Vice Chairman Dave Myers said, "This really goes to show how much support we have in this county."

Myers, who also serves as the chairman of the Romney campaign in Howard County, added, "We're tired of going blue year after year after year."

Like Loveless, Myers believes Romney can win in November, noting Republicans have "not only a shot, but we're going to win this one."

The last GOP presidential candidate to win Maryland was George H. W. Bush in 1988.

In 2008, President Barack Obama captured 62 percent of the votes in Maryland compared to John McCain's 37 percent. In Howard County, Obama earned nearly 32,000 more votes than McCain.

Eliot Sohmer, of Ellicott City, said this is a key election in terms of determining the future direction of the country. Obama, he said, "has done absolutely nothing that he's promised."

Sohmer plans to volunteer where he can to help Romney and other Republicans get elected. He said he would deliver yards signs to people who want them.

Ellicott City resident Norm Goldstein would also like to volunteer, but he thinks his time would best be spent contacting voters in battleground states.

"I don't think we can do much in Maryland ... if I volunteer it will probably be to make phone calls to Ohio or Pennsylvania," he said.

Ballinger appreciates the support

The campaign office hours are weekdays from noon to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 7 p.m.

Events and strategy meetings will be held at the office, but many of the volunteer activities will be conducted outside of the office.

"Romney and the RNC (Republican National Committee) have phone from home capabilities," office manager O.P. Ditch said, noting the office is not yet set up for phone banking.

Ditch said all the candidates have been opening to sharing information and coordinating their campaign efforts.

Mirabile, one of the first candidates to start using the space after the Aug. 13 soft opening, said the office is in a great location for his campaign.

Ballinger also said he plans to make use of the office.

"We're going to have our monthly campaign committee meetings here," he said.

Though he's running in a nonpartisan race, Ballinger said he appreciates all the effort the Republican Central Committee has made to help with his campaign.

Asked if he feels it's appropriate to associate himself with a political party, Ballinger said, "This is a part of what my values are and I've never hidden it."

No other candidates were present for the grand opening, held the day before many local Republicans traveled to Tampa for the Republican National Convention. However, state Sen. Allan Kittleman, who was elected to serve as a Romney delegate at the convention, and state Del. Gail Bates, both of West Friendship, attended the event.

The Democrats, meanwhile, have been conducting campaign activities for their candidates at an office in Columbia. The office has been open since mid-July, but the official grand opening event was not held until Aug. 27.

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin addressed the large crowd. The event also was attended by U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (District 3) and several local elected officials.

Something both parties can use is the Howard County voter database developed by Republican precinct organization director Frank Smith using Board of Elections data and information collected by the campaigns

The database, located at http://www.hocogop.com, allows voters to confirm that they are registered to vote, find their district information and see where there polling place is located.

In addition, Smith has created a voter registration survey aimed to help clean up the voter rolls and gather information on issues of importance to voters in both parties.

"The survey has some very interesting questions that reveal a lot about our voters," Smith said.