It is 10:30 in the morning, but Roger Hayden is already running late.
After bounding up the steps to his Towson campaign office, the Man Who Would Be Baltimore County Executive apologizes twice as he greets a visitor with a firm handshake.
In the office are a half-dozen phone messages and two Young Republicans who want him to speak at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, where they are studying.
The 45-year-old business executive looks over the messages.
"This one wants to talk to you, and this one really wants to talk to you -- right now," a secretary tells him.
He makes a call and, later, tells the Republicans he will be happy to speak -- asking in his next breath if they will join his campaign. Before leaving, they scribble their names and phone numbers in a three-ring,loose-leaf binder left open on a table for people to sign up as volunteers.
After an hourlong talk with a reporter, Mr. Hayden is off to meet hiscampaign treasurer, who sits waiting 20 minutes away in a Baltimore restaurant.
So goes another day in the campaign of Roger Hayden, an underdog who needs all the help he can get. His campaign, after all, is headed by a candidate who so far has been short of time to devote to the race.
Mr. Hayden promised supporters last summer that he would resign from his job as vice president of administration at George Transfer Inc., a Parkton trucking firm, to devote himself full time to his campaign. He finally did so Friday.
But the decision to remain on the job this long may have already damaged a cause hindered by a lack of organization and staffing.
Midday calls to headquarters from supporters and potential contributors last week were often taken by an answering machine. The office's hand-painted "Hayden for Executive" sign misspells the treasurer's name.
Twice last week, commitments atGeorge Transfer caused Mr. Hayden to miss appointments. He was an hour late for a midweek interview with a reporter, and he never made it to a noon campaign session Friday outside the county government offices in Towson.
Mr. Hayden said that Friday would be his last day and that he had stayed on the job this long only to fulfill a commitment to his employer and to work out details of restructuring a company loan.
"It's a commitment I made, and I intended to live up to it," he said.
The misspelled sign, Mr. Hayden said, was painted by "an old friend" from his days as a Boy Scout leader, and he keeps it in the office because he values the friend's support. He said he was surprised no one answered the phone at his headquarters Friday and disputed suggestions that his campaign might be disorganized and understaffed.
"We've got people working for us all over the county," he said.
Mr. Hayden said he had raised $50,000, had a network of 1,000 volunteers and 5,000 yard signs and would open a "Democrats for Hayden" office in Dundalk next Saturday -- a necessity in a sprawling county where there are eight Democrats for every three Republicans.
Largely unknown, Mr. Hayden has labored in the relative obscurity of the county school board, where members seldom become known outside education circles.
Yet many who watch county politics say that if Mr. Hayden's campaign comes together, he could still win the executive's job Nov. 6 by tapping into resentment against Dennis F. Rasmussen among taxpayer groups, anti-growth advocates and county workers who say the incumbent has ignored them.
"I think Roger Hayden has a combination of assets that make him a very attractive candidate," predicted Delegate Ellen R. Sauerbrey, R-Baltimore County. "People who want an alternative will look at Roger and will like what they see."
It was Ms. Sauerbrey who persuaded Mr. Hayden, a former Democrat, to switch parties this year and got him thinking about the executive's race. Mr. Hayden says he switched because he realized that he was a Republican at heart.
"In all the years I had voted for president, I had never voted for a Democrat," said Mr. Hayden, who has two grown children and lives in Baldwin with his wife, Nancy, an elementary school supervisor for the county.
The son of a pipefitter, Mr. Hayden is the third of four children. Born in the Jones Creek section of southeastern Baltimore County, he was named for Roger Windsor, the doctor who delivered him.
He attended Charles Terrace Elementary School and Sparrows Point High School in Edgemere, where he graduated in 1962. Three years later, he earned an associate's degree from Essex Community College.
While taking night courses at the University of Baltimore, where he earned a bachelor's degree in business management in 1967, Mr. Hayden worked days as a mail boy at Eastern Stainless Corp.
He spent 22 years at Eastern Stainless, holding 19 different positions as he worked his way up through the company until 1985, when he retired as vice president of operations, a position that involved overseeing 800 employees.