It was shortly after she had a mastectomy last year that Ellicott City resident Carole Fisher decided to support Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey.
Concerned about her daughters' health, Fisher encouraged them tohave a mammogram. But Fisher then discovered that her daughters' health insurance didn't cover the procedure.
Kerrey is sponsoring legislation that would guarantee health carefor all Americans, the centerpiece of his presidential campaign.
That was enough for Fisher. She's not only running as a Kerrey delegate to the Democratic National Convention, but went to New Hampshire Feb. 7 to campaign on his behalf. It was her second trip.
Other county residents running in the March 3 presidential primary as delegates to the Democratic and Republican national conventions may not be going to New Hampshire, but many, like Fisher, have strong personal reasons for supporting their choices.
Sandra Trice Gray, for example,says that having "marched in Little Rock, sat-in in Little Rock (in the late 1950s), and become the first black to teach in Little Rock'sdesegregated school system heightened (her) interest in Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton and what he's been able to do" in that state.
"We cannot afford a nation that is sexist and racist," Gray said. "What went through my mind, aside from the fact that we feel he can win and that we need a Democrat in the White House, is that he can lead America out of divisiveness and racism so that we can compete in a global economy."
Columbia resident Kristine Zornig says she is willing to stuff envelopes, make calls and run as a delegate for former Massachusetts Sen. Paul E. Tsongas because he is "really smart, brilliant andcreative."
"I supported (Sen.) Paul Simon (D-Ill.) last time, andI think Paul Tsongas is the candidate most like him," Zornig says. "He has the best mind, the best ideas, the best thought-out program. And he does his homework."
Ellicott City attorney James Kraft, while not running as a delegate, has taken a 24-day leave of absence to run Clinton's Maryland campaign. Kraft says he will supervise day-to-day campaign operations, help coordinate strategy and plan Clinton appearances in the state.
Kraft says Clinton is the best of a good slate of candidates.
"I know he can win," Kraft says. "George Bush is disaster. If he wins again, the county is in serious trouble."
Far from seeing Bush as a disaster, Columbia resident Joan I. Athen "locked onto him early on." Athen, who is running as a Bush delegate tothe Republican National Convention, was instrumental in 1976 in getting a Howard County resident elected as a delegate to the GOP convention for the first time. In return for her efforts, she went to the convention that year as a Ronald Reagan alternate -- one of three in attendance.
Four years later, Athen went to the Reagan convention asa Bush alternate.
"I've been a fan of his ever since," she says.
She has met the president and his wife many times -- she has been a delegate to every GOP convention since 1984, and in 1988 served on the committee drawing up the rules for the 1992 convention. What she likes most about the Bushes, she says, are their values and lack of pretention.
"The president is being blamed for the county's economic problems, but everyone is facing them today," Athen says. "He is taking too much of the blame. People forget it's a Democratic Congress.You can't really blame everything on him."
Maryland is a key state, Athen says, because "Pat Buchanan's family lives here, and we don't want to see him follow New Hampshire by doing well in Maryland before moving onto the South, where he is strongest."
There are six Buchanan delegates on the ballot -- three in the 3rd Congressional District and three in the 6th -- but none are from Howard County. The local party headquarters has had only one Buchanan inquiry, Athen says.
Former California Gov. Jerry Brown is the only Democratic candidate without Howard County delegates, although eight people from other jurisdictions will show up on the ballot supporting him -- six in the 3rd District and two in the 6th.
Democrat Angela Beltram, a formerCounty Council member and longtime Ellicott City activist, says she is running as a delegate for Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin because Harkin is "telling it like it is."
"The Democrats have had their tail betweentheir legs for the past 12 years," Beltram says. "We need to hold Bush's feet to the fire. He has been saying Democrats are pro-criminal,anti-family and pro-big-budget. It's not true. Harkin can attack that. He is not being nice for the sake of being nice."
Savage resident Thomas M. Mateya says he was approached by people in the Harkin and Kerrey camps, but is running uncommitted in hopes that New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo will get into the race.
"All the Democratic candidates are better for the country than Bush," says Mateya, "but I'm still holding out for Cuomo. I think there's enough voter volatility that a groundswell could occur."
WHO'S RUNNING IN DELEGATE RACES