In a decidedly lackluster primary, less than one-fourth of the county's registered voters went to the polls to choose their party's candidates for the Nov. 6 general election.
With few contested races and no compelling statewide contests, only 24 percent of the county's 92,801 eligible voters cast ballots.
The outcome held few surprises.
Making a strong showing, retired educator Charles I. Ecker, supported by the county's Republican establishment, captured his party's nomination to face incumbent County Executive M. Elizabeth Bobo in the general election.
Ecker, who joined the Republican Party less than a year ago, won the race against Ellicott City businessman Gilbert E. South by more than a 2-to-1 margin.
In the two contested County Council races, incumbents Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, and Charles Feaga, R-5th, prevailed.
Many who came to the polls said they wanted to cast their vote in the Democratic primary for sheriff, a contest not known for its drawing power.
The four-way race centered on the controversy surrounding the revelation that two deputies engaged in "Nazi mimicry" on the job for years. The disclosure paved the way for retired county police Lt. Michael A.
Chiuchiolo's decisive victory over incumbent Herbert L. Stonesifer.
HERE'S A WRAP-UP OF INDIVIDUAL PRIMARY RACES:
Gil South, 54, said he was beaten by the Republican party "machine," but that he would help Charles I. Ecker, 61, try to unseat incumbent M. Elizabeth Bobo, 46, a Democrat.
Ecker and Bobo wasted no time in garnering media exposure after the primary, with Ecker on Wednesday morning challenging Bobo to meet him for three public forums, on Sept. 25 at Glenelg High School, Oct. 8 at Centennial High School and Oct. 30 at Hammond High School. On Wednesday, Bobo accepted the invitation at a press conference at which she announced a new committee identical to one Ecker said he would use to correct what he considers overspending by the executive.
During the primary campaign, Ecker proposed a "spending affordability committee" to analyze the county's operating budget, similar to the current Bond Affordability Committee, which analyzes the capital budget. Bobo announced the formation of a "spending guidelines advisory committee," which she said was conceived by former state Senate President James Clark Jr. Clark also appeared at the press conference.
Asked about the Ecker proposal, Bobo responded, "I'm not aware if he's offered that or not." She said she had been talking with people about it "for months."
"I feel flattered that she thought I had a good idea," said Ecker of the committee. "I think she should have had it four years ago, before she increased the budget 88 percent (during her term)."
The losers' camps remained undecided Friday as to whether they would stick with their parties, cross party lines or sit out the general election.
"There's still a large bloc of people out there that I feel I represent and I owe it to them to maintain an involvement," said John Taylor, 34, who came within 240 votes of unseating 5th District incumbent Charles Feaga, 57, on the Republican ticket.
Taylor said he plans to meet with Feaga and his Democratic opponent D.
Susan Scheidt, 50, who was asked by Bobo to run, to see what commitments they will make to slower growth, rural conservation and stricter ethics.
"I've been in the county for three years, and I nearly unseated an incumbent," Taylor said. He believes this indicates that voters want a change.
William Smith's showing on the Democratic ballot in the 1st District proved the same thing, said his campaign manager, Pauline Sieverding, although Smith received a dismal 37 percent of the vote.
"We were totally clobbered in Columbia," she said, while getting a majority from Elkridge down to North Laurel, the areas hardest hit by growth.
Supporting Council Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass, 40, or her Republican opponent, University of Maryland hospital engineer Dennis R. Schrader, 37, might be difficult for Smith supporters, she added.
After a bitter campaign against Taylor, Feaga was optimistic about the general election effort: "My opponent and her husband are very nice people and I think it will be a more pleasant campaign than we've had in the past."
Bobo said she would campaign for Scheidt, partly because of Feaga's opposition to her legislation on the environment, agricultural preservation, growth control and open space.
But Feaga said he wasn't worried about the executive campaigning against him: "With her record, I think it may even make it easy for me."
Retired police Lt. Michael A. Chiuchiolo won a decisive victory on the Democratic ticket in a race that centered around the issue of "Nazi mimicry" and the recent turmoil associated with two controversial deputies.
Chiuchiolo, a 49-year-old Clarksville resident, said his defeat of incumbent Herbert L. Stonesifer showed "voters wanted a change."