Democratic County Commissioner candidate Elmer C. Lippy Jr. says he blends in just fine in Republican circles.
"Truthfully, all my real close friends are Republicans," said the 70-year-old Manchester mayor. "I've made it a lifelong practice to get along with Republicans, not that I don't have philosophical arguments."
Republican candidate Richard T. Yates, perhaps the most conservative of the six contenders vying for the three commissioner positions, said his 46 years as a registered Democrat should serve him well in the Nov. 6 general election.
"I can draw from both sides now," said the 65-year-old retired federal government worker, who ran unsuccessfully for commissioner as a Democrat in 1986 before changing party affiliation.
No sooner had the primary ended Sept. 11 than several of the surviving commissioner candidates began proclaiming their appeal to voters of the opposite party.
And in a county where voter registration is almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, a candidate's success in drawing "cross-over" votes likely will make the difference in who gets elected, say the candidates and Carroll political activists.
"I don't think a candidate can win with only his party's votes," said Democratic contender Sharon L. Baker, 45, a client services supervisor with the County Department of Aging. "You have to reach out and convince other people."
Candidates and Carroll Republican and Democratic Central Committee members agree that residents tend to vote based on evaluations of candidates' personalities and stands on issues, rather than strictly along party lines, especially in county elections. Voters can vote for three candidates.
"In Carroll, it's been a tradition that candidates are supported by both Republicans and Democrats," said Commissioner Julia W. Gouge, 50, a Republican and the lone incumbent in the race. "That's what puts you into office."
Republican Commissioner President John L. Armacost seemingly validated that theory in 1986, finishing as the top vote-getter in the general election even though about 3,100 more Democrats cast votes than Republicans.
Yates, who received an endorsement from Armacost, said he was encouraged by the commissioner's performance in the 1986 election.
"He did the least campaigning and got the most votes, and he, of course, is a conservative," said Yates. "I don't think a conservative Republican can win without the conservative Democrat vote. I will concentrate on that very much."
Republican candidate Donald I. Dell, 65, agreed, saying a number of Democrats told him they would vote for him in the general election if he survived the primary.
Yates has emphasized that he would be a watchdog on government spending, much in the Armacost mold. But Lippy says Yates doesn't have a patent on that job.
"My approach to fiscal matters is as much like a Republican as anyone on the ticket," Lippy said. "It's no secret. Everyone will try to save the taxpayer money. It's about the same as respecting motherhood."
Democratic candidate Richard F. Will Sr., 45, said he also is in the "moderate-to-conservative" mold and hopes to appeal to a wide cross-section of voters through a record of "honesty and hard work."
The ability of candidates to win "cross-over" votes is crucial because it could determine which party ultimately gains control of the commissioner office, said Greg Pecoraro, Democratic Central Committee chairman.
"Carroll elections have been competitive for years," he said. "It doesn't take a lot of votes to affect the outcome. It wouldn't have taken a big shift to put a second Democrat in office last time."
Both Pecoraro and Joseph M. Getty, a GOP Central Committee member, predict their respective parties have legitimate chances to sweep in the commissioner race.
Pecoraro said Democratic candidates are "well-positioned" because of their wide bases of support and "moderate" stances on issues.
"On the Republican side, you have two almost reactionary candidates," he said.
Getty said residents' concerns over money matters and prior campaign experience of all three GOP candidates could carry the slate.
Also, Republicans traditionally have drawn more votes from Democrats than vice versa, he said.
"The cross-over vote is even more critical when it comes to electing three Republicans," he said.