A 5-foot-tall community activist stood head and shoulders above two incumbents in the District 31 House of Delegates race.
Joan Cadden, a former member of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education, surprised even herself by leading the Democratic field in Tuesday's primary.
Incumbents W. Ray Huff and Charles W. "Stokes" Kolodziejski won the other two Democratic nominations.
Incumbency proved a potent force in Tuesday's primaries. None of the eight incumbent delegates seeking to retain their seats lost. But that could change come the Nov. 6 general election.
In districts 30 and 31, the Democrats are in the process of solidifying their tickets to stave off Republican challenges. Meanwhile, GOP incumbents in District 33 hope to do the same to their Democratic counterparts.
A volunteer in her Brooklyn Park community for the past 25 years, Cadden received 6,587 votes. Huff followed with 6,015 votes; Kolodziejski tallied 5,801.
"I'm not sure I expected to be first, but I expected to be among the top three," said Cadden, vice president of the Greater Brooklyn Park Council. "I did it by talking to people, walking door-to-door, being concerned and listening to people."
Cadden got her first taste of politics when she was appointed to the school board in 1984. Although the citizens' nominating convention recommended Cadden for a second term in 1988, the governor, acting on County Executive O. James Lighthizer's recommendation, did not reappoint her.
"If I had been reappointed to the school board, I wouldn't be running for office now," Cadden said. "I really loved working with the kids."
Asked if the strong showing by Cadden and county Community Services head Rosemarie Church, who trailed Kolodziejski by 170 votes, reflected badly on the incumbents, Kolodziejski said, "I guess a lot of women wanted a woman in there."
But, Church added, "Maybe they didn't want two women in there."
Assistant State's Attorney Trevor A. Kiessling, who placed fifth among the Democrats with 3,508 votes, said Cadden overpowered the other candidates with superior organization.
"Even though Joan was not an incumbent, she was looked on as part of that team," Kiessling said. "From the beginning, they had the same supporters."
James J. Riley, a former perennial Democratic candidate, led the Republican field by 33 votes. Douglas Arnold, an Annapolis Capital advertising salesman, and Evelyn Kampmeyer, a retired school principal, took the other two GOP nominations, defeating real estate agent William Curlett.
"It was closer than I thought it would be," said Riley, a retired schoolteacher. "But since I'm a new Republican, I have to be satisfied."
Riley, who has made unsuccessful bids for Congress, County Council and the General Assembly in the last 12 years, said he will target Kolodziejski's seat in the general election. Riley lost to Kolodziejski by 150 votes in 1986.
"He was gunning for me in the last election and he lost," Kolodziejski said. "I'll be waiting for him."
Kolodziejski said he still has the power of the incumbency working for him. "You do favors for people over the years and you start gaining friends," he said.
Two of the district races are extremely close and could be affected by absentee ballots, which will not be tallied until this afternoon.
Incumbent Democrats John Astle and Michael Busch captured two of the three nominations in District 30. With about 286 Democratic absentee ballots still to be counted, Edith Segree holds the edge on Patricia Clagett for the third nomination.
Segree claimed victory Tuesday night. But Clagett, who only trailed by 114 votes yesterday, was not ready to concede.
"The (Clagett) campaign will not be issuing any statements until the absentee ballots are cast and we have a final total," said Michael Keller, Clagett's campaign manager. "Right now the vote is inconclusive."
In the final weeks of the campaign, Keller said the neck-and-neck contest between Clagett and Segree for the third nomination became more and more apparent. "We knew it would be a race that would go down to the wire," he said. "We saw it as 50-50."
The three Democrats will face Republican candidates Dr. Aris T. Allen, a former Annapolis senator, and Philip Bissett, an Edgewater warehouseman, in November.
"I think Dr. Allen is going to be a formidable opponent," said Segree, who for the past eight years has worked as an aide to Councilwoman Carole Baker, D-Severna Park.
In District 33, incumbent Republicans John Gary and Elizabeth S. Smith easily won renomination, each garnering more than 3,500 votes.
In a tight race for the third nomination, Edwin E. Edel, a Crownsville resident concerned that the incumbents have become unresponsive, leads Wayne A. Gerst, a former Republican Central Committee member, by 141 votes. Election officials have yet to count 179 GOP absentee ballots.
The three GOP winners will face Democrats Sabine Bosma, Bill Burlison and incumbent Marsha G. Perry in the November election. The three were unopposed in Tuesday's primary.