Maryland attorney general to run unopposed

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, a Democrat, was all but assured of re-election Tuesday when no challenger from either party emerged to run against him by an evening filing deadline.

More than one-fifth of the 47-member state Senate found itself in the same position in a year in which anti-incumbent sentiment appears to be a prevailing mood nationally among voters.

When elections offices closed, the field of candidates for fall races was largely established. Some of the most prominent contenders, including Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., filed days earlier, but others, including some incumbents, waited until the final hours.

Gansler, a former Montgomery County state's attorney who has made support of gay marriage a signature issue of his first term, said he was pleased that he probably won't have to campaign this year. He said his approach to his job as the state's top prosecutor is "to be bipartisan."

"That there is no groundswell of people rising up to run against me should not be a surprise," he said. "After the election, I'm no longer in politics. I'm a prosecutor, and I take the bipartisan nature of the office very seriously."

All 188 seats in the Maryland General Assembly are up for a vote this fall, and all but 25 incumbents are seeking re-election.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, who is running for a fifth term in the U.S. Senate, drew two dozen challengers, though none has anywhere near the name recognition or available cash as the Democratic incumbent.

Voters will also fill the state's eight seats in the House of Representatives. A rematch between Frank Kratovil, an Eastern Shore Democrat finishing his first term, and Republican state Sen. Andy Harris is one of Maryland's premier matchups.

Republican party leaders could still select someone to appear on the ballot to challenge Gansler, as well as for other offices where no candidates filed. But party Chairwoman Audrey Scott said she wasn't sure whether any of the most qualified Republican lawyers in Maryland would want to postpone lucrative careers to enter the race for a post that pays $125,000 annually.

Elections officials in Annapolis reported about 700 people filed for the statewide races, slightly fewer than four years ago. Local elections boards finalized races that include county executives and state's attorneys as well as council members and political party representatives.

Other incumbents facing no opponents in either the primary or general election include Sens. Catherine Pugh and Lisa Gladden in Baltimore; Sen. Bobby Zirkin in Baltimore County; Sens. Rob Garagiola and Jamie Raskin in Montgomery County; and Sens. Ulysses Currie, Paul Pinsky and James Rosapepe in Prince George's County. All are Democrats

Republicans who may not have to withstand a primary or general election battle include Sen. George Edwards in Garrett County and Sen. Barry Glassman in Harford County.

Party central committees have 15 days to nominate a candidate for any seat in which no one from their party has filed to run, said Jared DeMarinis, director of the Maryland Board of Elections' Candidacy and Campaign Finance Division.

Even without a contender for attorney general, Scott said she is satisfied with the number of Republicans "up and down the ticket" who have decided to run for office in a state in which registered Democratic voters outnumber them by a ratio of more than 2-to-1.

"We're focused on getting a two-party system in this state," she said. "That's what people want."

The Maryland Democratic Party had a different take on the field of Republicans. Isaac Salazar, a party spokesman, said Maryland Republicans "are notorious for eating their young."

"The fact that the Maryland GOP isn't putting up a candidate [for attorney general] speaks volumes about their lack of a bench and ability to groom a new generation of leaders," he said.

Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat, has no primary opponent, but three Republicans have entered the race. At 18, Brendan Madigan is the youngest challenger — too young to drink alcohol, even though regulation of the industry would be part of his duties as comptroller.

Throughout the day, the state elections board office buzzed with anticipation and gossip. Omnipresent lobbyist Bruce Bereano warmly greeted candidates as they filed paperwork. Some candidates who had already filed hung around to see who'd be challenging them.

In midafternoon, Dels. Hattie Harrison and Cheryl Glenn, Baltimore Democrats, became the final two legislators to file for re-election. Challengers flowed in for the rest of the evening — a diverse group that included a Harford County public defender running for state delegate and a 23-year-old fresh-out-of-law-school Republican trying to become a Baltimore County delegate.

Some candidates exercised strategy in waiting until the final hours to file.

Kathy Szeliga, a Republican candidate for a Baltimore County delegate seat, wanted to wait as long as possible before giving up her paycheck. Becoming an official candidate meant Szeliga had to resign from her day job as a legislative aide for departing state senator Harris.

Rebecca Weir, a Democrat, filed in April to run as a delegate representing the Towson area. But on Tuesday she kept careful tabs on the elections board's online list of candidates and, noticing that no Democrat had filed for Harris' seat, decided to go for it.

An hour before the office closed, she rushed in to withdraw from the delegate race and sign up for a Senate bid that even Democratic Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. had declined.

"Sometimes women are bolder," she said. Two Republicans, Del. J.B. Jennings and former Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer Jr., are also vying for the seat.

Both O'Malley and Ehrlich will face primary opponents.

Republican businessman Brian Murphy filed his candidacy papers Tuesday after selecting a new running mate, former FBI corruption investigator Mike Ryman. Murphy's former selection backed away.

"We are trying to put forward ideas for the voters," Murphy said after filing.

Salazar, the Democratic spokesman, said Murphy, has been "ostracized" when he should be "embraced as a newcomer who wants to debate issues and make the party stronger."

In the Baltimore County executive race, where Smith cannot run because of term limits, council members Kevin Kamenetz and Joe Bartenfelder are vying for the Democratic nomination, while Kenneth C. Holt, a former delegate, is running unopposed as a Republican.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, a Democrat, made his re-election bid official at midafternoon, following Republican challenger Trent Kittleman, a former state transportation official who filed Friday. By waiting until the last day to file, Ulman provided at least a bit of drama in Howard, where every incumbent member of the County Council and the General Assembly filed for re-election.

In the Republican primary, incumbent Harford County Executive David R. Craig will run against Robert S. Wagner, who lost the race for County Council president in 2006 after 16 years on that board, and Fred Silva, a Perryman resident who ran unsuccessfully for a council seat four years ago.

Craig was appointed to the office in 2005 and elected to his first four-year term a year later.

In the Baltimore County top prosecutor's race, incumbent State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger faces a rematch with 2006 opponent Steve Bailey, a Republican. Longtime Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy also gained a primary opponent Tuesday, when defense attorney Gregg Bernstein filed to run.

julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

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Baltimore Sun reporters Annie Linskey, Larry Carson and Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article.

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