The good news for the state Republican Party is that there are several familiar names among the eight seeking the party's nomination on Tuesday's ballot for the Senate seat held by Paul S. Sarbanes. The bad news is that the names are known because they have been on ballots before -- and lost.
The veteran of the group is Ross Z. Pierpont. The 82-year-old doctor has taken it on the chin 15 times for his party. He has won some primaries, but never a general election.
The only one of the eight who has held office is Robin Ficker, 56, a gadfly tax opponent who represented Montgomery County in the House of Delegates from 1979 to 1983 but is best known for years of sitting behind the opponents' bench at Washington Bullets, now Wizards, games and heckling the visiting team.
Several others are veterans of the similarly quixotic campaign two years ago to face Barbara Mikulski, the state's other entrenched Democratic senator. Pierpont was the party's nominee but lost by a 2-to-1 margin. None of the eight is given a real chance this time against Sarbanes, who is well financed and faces token opposition in the Democratic primary.
Privately, state Republican leaders express disappointment that none of their officeholders decided to take on Sarbanes. Even in a losing effort, such a run would give the party the type of statewide credibility that Ellen R. Sauerbrey's last two campaigns for governor achieved.
"Incumbent officials are reluctant to put their neck on the block unless they have an awfully good chance of winning," said Carol Arscott, a pollster who has advised many Republican campaigns.
"But if someone gets the nomination and does a nice job of carrying the party banner, even if they lose, they bank a lot of good will for the future."
Paul H. Rappaport, the former Howard County police chief who ran for lieutenant governor on Sauerbrey's ticket in 1994 and for attorney general against J. Joseph Curran Jr. in 1998, said he is running for Senate because the party wanted him to.
"I knew I couldn't win the attorney general race, but they asked me to support the party," Rappaport, 65, said at a candidates forum at the Johns Hopkins University this week.
"If we can unite in 2000 like we did in '94, we can see Senator Sarbanes retired and have a two-party system in Maryland," Rappaport said.
Certainly the party has some candidates with interesting proposals.
Howard David Greybar, 76, is a retired Navy officer and astrophysicist who says he would be the first senator with a doctorate in physics.
"We have loads of lawyers there -- we don't need any more of those," the Potomac resident said.
A self-described "progressive" Republican who supports abortion rights and gun control on automatic weapons, Greybar has also lost his share of races, one against Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill in Massachusetts and three in Maryland. He says the federal government should spend its surplus building science high schools in every congressional district.
Rob Sobhani, 40, is a forceful, articulate speaker with a doctorate in international relations from Georgetown University who ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination to face Mikulski in 1992. He arrived at the Hopkins forum with supporters from Montgomery County who raucously cheered his every statement.
A first-generation American with Iranian immigrant parents, Sobhani said, "I have lived the American dream, and I want to ensure that dream is available to every person in the country."
Sobhani, president of Caspian Energy Consulting, a Potomac firm that helps foreign companies work with American companies, emphasized two proposals -- making English the country's official language and requiring that every school day begin with the Pledge of Allegiance, including the words "under God."
Later in the forum, Kenneth Timmerman, 46-year-old investigative reporter, said that four of his children are in Montgomery County public schools, "And they start every day with the Pledge of Allegiance already. So what are you talking about?"
Timmerman, a first-time candidate who also stood out at the forum for supporting abortion rights, has written extensively on allegations of the loss of technological secrets to foreign countries and emphasized that issue.
John Stafford, 59, an attorney from North Laurel who publishes an investment newsletter, read his paid newspaper advertisement, which was a laundry list of conservative proposals.
All the candidates backed the death penalty, but Stafford was the only one to give biblical chapter and verse to support his position. He also called for abolition of the income tax.
But no one was more vociferous in his anti-tax rhetoric than Ken Wayman. "We should pull the Internal Revenue Service up by the roots, throw it on the ground and watch it die," the 53-year-old Carroll County resident said.
Another unsuccessful seeker of the Republican Senate nomination two years ago, Wayman runs a computer software firm. He noted that his Vietnam experience made him the only candidate to have faced combat, although several noted their military experience.