Republicans exulted and Democrats cringed yesterday at the surprise that Montgomery County Executive Sidney Kramer, rejected by the voters in the Democratic primary, will mount a write-in campaign for re-election.
Republicans savored the possibility of Mr. Kramer splitting the Democratic vote in the Nov. 6 general election with Neal Potter, the County Council veteran who upset him in September.
That would open the way for GOP candidate Albert Ceccone, a businessman who has never held elective office, to win the highest post in the state's largest and wealthiest county.
"The only thing Kramer will do is decrease the vote Potter will get," said Joyce L. Terhes, chairwoman of the Maryland Republican Party, who called Mr. Ceccone yesterday to pledge support. "If they split it, it could really work in our favor."
The state Democratic chairman, Nathan Landow, called on Mr. Kramer to abide by the results of the primary and to "do the right thing" by withdrawing and supporting Mr. Potter.
"I would hope Mr. Kramer is not so naive [as] to believe this election was something other than voters showing their strong support for Mr. Potter's candidacy," Mr. Landow said.
But Mr. Kramer, who found himself in the odd position of an incumbent running as an outsider, said: "I'm in the race to stay."
The county executive said supporters had implored him to give voters "a second chance" because the primary turnout was low -- 44.1 percent of Montgomery Democrats.
Democrats have dominated Montgomery politics since the late 1970s, but the party's edge in voter registration has slipped. Democrats now account for 54 percent of registered Montgomery voters, Republicans 33 percent and independents 13 percent.
Mr. Potter, clearly ambushed by Mr. Kramer's turnabout, held a rally yesterday at his Rockville campaign headquarters to show that his support was solid.
Bruce T. Adams, a Democratic council member backing Mr. Potter, said: "I haven't heard a single elected official who is anything other than very angry about this, including Kramer intimates. I'm shocked and saddened that Sid Kramer would reject the electoral process like this. It's completely out of character."
Council President William E. Hanna Jr., a former member of the Kramer team, said he would back Mr. Potter. He said he "had no inkling" that Mr. Kramer would run.
"I personally think it's unfortunate," he said. "At this late date I don't think he has any chance. What I do see it doing is possibly causing a rift in the Democratic Party, which plays right into the hands of the Republican candidate."
But Mr. Kramer brushed aside his party's distress: "I would expect the politicians would follow the political line and read from the political hymnal. That doesn't surprise me."
He said neither Mr. Potter nor Mr. Ceccone had his "proven ability to run the county government," and singled out his fellow Democrat for "sitting in council meetings and dozing, not the kind of person you need to lead the largest county in the state."
Mr. Ceccone, 44, a Chevy Chase real estate investor, also went on the attack, portraying both Democrats as big spenders who want "an open checkbook to do whatever they want to do and not be held accountable."
He said he would run a "first-class campaign," using mailings and phone banks to reach voters. Mrs. Terhes said she promised Mr. Ceccone "volunteer support, ideas and strategy, but that's it" -- no cash contributions from the financially strapped state GOP.
"I've got the best of all worlds," Mr. Ceccone said. "It looks like I'm going to have a substantial victory. It's not going to be close."