Nineteen people -- including 14 Republicans and four Democrats -- are running in the Sept. 15 primary election for a seat on the three-member Carroll County Board of Commissioners.
A 19th candidate has filed as an independent and collected enough signatures to appear on the November ballot.
With so many candidates, the primary election has taken on the jumbled quality of a foot race at the starting line. More confusing for voters, candidates agree, is the similarity of the candidates' views.
Republican, Democrat or independent, the candidates have mostly echoed one another in their calls for increasing economic development, controlling growth, combating drug use and improving the relationship between government and the public.
"No matter what lever you pull, it's all the same chocolate milk," quipped one candidate.
"What disappoints me the most is that there is no controversy," said James E. Harris Sr., a Republican candidate. "Controversy would be good, because it would separate those who really want it from people who are in it for a paycheck."
But during a League of Women Voters forum on Thursday, candidates suggested that there are characteristics that separate them, such as character, age, political experience and business experience. The candidates say that those qualities will make the difference on Sept. 15.
Michael R. Baker: County government could learn a thing or two from business, said Baker.
With his years of business experience, Baker, 59, of Westminster, said he is the candidate who can give the county the best lesson in creating leaner budgets, making quicker decisions and running a more efficient operation.
"There's a lot of waste in the county," Baker said. "I'm confident I can cut 10 percent [from the budget] without affecting service and laying people off."
Baker is a management consultant for St. Agnes Healthcare and has worked in administrative positions at hospitals and in the health care industry. He also was a Baltimore police officer.
Baker supports increasing economic development, limiting residential growth in areas without adequate facilities and limiting closed-door meetings.
He also has proposed building a beltway, perhaps a toll road, around the county instead of building bypasses around communities.
Edward S. Calwell Sr.: Calwell was first elected to the Westminster Common Council in 1989. Since 1994, he has served as council president.
That experience, Calwell said, led to his decision to seek a seat on the Board of Commissioners.
"With the tools and leadership I picked up along the way and the ability to negotiate with citizens, it gave me a base to work with so I could seek a higher office," he said.
Calwell, 53, a self-employed training consultant and antique dealer, said his main concern is maintaining the quality of life in the county. Calwell said the county needs to more aggressively lure new businesses. If the county is able to secure major employers, the county's reputation will spread, he said.
Calwell has also been a member of the Carroll County Parks & Recreation Council, Carroll County Rape Crisis Intervention Service and Westminster Municipal Band. He holds a bachelor's degree in marketing from the University of Baltimore and served in the Air Force.
John F. Curran Jr.: In the crowd of Republican candidates, Curran is hoping to distinguish himself by promising something no other candidate has: free trash pickup.
"There's lots to talk about, but this is something that's positive," Curran said. "It's not radical. It's something that should have come about a number of years ago. We are small enough that we are right for it."
If elected, Curran said, he would trim $1.8 million from the Public Works Department's $9.8 million budget by privatizing operations. He said the savings could be used to pay for a competitively bid contract with one hauler. County residents currently pay $100 to $200 for trash service.
Curran said his plan is based on 14 years of experience in the county's Department of Public Works, where he was bureau chief of solid waste and special projects coordinator. He left the department in April, when his position was eliminated. He is unemployed.
Curran promises to cut waste and political favoritism in county government.
"I want to make the hiring process more open and based on guidelines for the position, not because they contributed to your account," he said. "This is a problem in the county."
Donald I. Dell: Dell is seeking his third term as county commissioner.
The former dairy farmer said maintaining a strong school system and preserving more agricultural land will be two of his primary goals if re-elected.
Dell, 73, of Westminster, said he plans to improve the commissioners' leadership. He criticized the current board for failing to stay informed about each department's projects.
"There are a lot of things the commissioners don't know about," he said.