Winning a four-year term in public office without having to run for election is every politician's fantasy, and one that is likely to soon come true for one Howard County Republican.
Although Del. Robert L. Flanagan's selection by Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to be Maryland's secretary of transportation was just announced and confirmation by the state Senate is uncertain, local Republicans are jockeying for his seat in the House of Delegates.
FOR THE RECORD - An article yesterday in the Howard County edition of The Sun about Republicans vying to replace Del. Robert L. Flanagan, who has been nominated to be Maryland's secretary of transportation, was incorrect in describing the background of one hopeful.
Carol Arscott served on the Howard County Republican State Central Committee from 1984 to 1994.
The Sun regrets the error.
Three -- Carol Arscott, 47, a pollster, Warren Miller, 38, a management consultant and GOP central committee member, and Brian Harlin, 36, owner of a firm that manufactures Republican campaign signs -- have emerged, and most observers expect more candidates will come forward. But the transition may not be smooth because Miller and Harlin are criticizing Arscott for doing polling for a Democrat in last year's election.
Louis M. Pope, the Howard County Republican Party chairman, said the nine-member central committee that will choose someone for the seat will begin gathering resumes, but will not do more until Flanagan is confirmed. The goal, he said, is to fill the seat as quickly as possible because the 90-day General Assembly session is under way.
Arscott, a partner in Gonzales/Arscott Research and Communications Inc., and a former county Republican chairwoman, has support from state Sen. Sandra B. Schrader, who was appointed to the seat she holds last year when Sen. Martin G. Madden resigned. Schrader won a full, four-year term in November.
But Harlin and Miller questioned Arscott's party loyalty because she did polling last year for Ken Ulman, a Democrat who won the west Columbia seat on the County Council.
"It's kinda hard to come to the Republican Central Committee and want support when you've helped a Democrat," Miller said. Harlin said he felt similarly.
"I would not do Democratic signs," Harlin said. Arscott worked to make sure our one shot at County Council was stopped," Harlin charged, referring to GOP council candidate Joan C. Lancos, who lost to Ulman by about 3,200 votes.
But Arscott disputed those points, arguing that the polling she did for Ulman was for the Democratic primary only, and produced no information that could have been used against a Republican.
"I felt comfortable because it was my judgment that no Republican could be elected to that seat no matter how good the candidate was because there were no Republican voters there. I turned out to be correct," she said.
Besides, she said, she has been next-door neighbors to Ulman's parents for 17 years and has known him since he was a boy.
Her husband, Fred Arscott, died in a traffic accident in February. "I would never have made it through the past year without those people [the Ulmans]," Arscott said.
Schrader's support of Arscott is unwavering, she said.
"Carol was a Republican when it wasn't popular to be a Republican. She really kept the party together," Schrader said. "She's extremely intelligent and knows politics and knows how it works, Schrader said, adding that Harlin and Miller "are excellent candidates," too.
Miller, of Woodbine, is a Glenelg High graduate and Howard County native, and works as an information technology consultant. He was elected last year to his second term on the party central committee, served on the County Council redistricting committee, and he said he has been involved in party politics since 1986.
"For a Republican, it's a very good opportunity," he said about the Flanagan seat opening, because the District 9 seat is in a Republican-dominated district.
Harlin, a Long Island, N.Y., native who lives in Montgomery Meadows in Ellicott City, ran last year for County Council in the east Columbia-dominated District 2, losing to Democrat David A. Rakes.
Owner of Elkridge's GOP Shoppe, he said he was planning to run for Flanagan's seat in four years if the veteran delegate stepped down. If he has not been involved in county politics as long as the others, he has been involved in Republican politics "as long as anyone else," he said.
Arscott, who ran for Circuit Court clerk in 1986, said, "My circumstances have changed a lot in the past year. It's right for me now."
She volunteered two decades ago in state Sen. Robert H. Kittleman's first campaign for House of Delegates. After his victory, she was his aide for 14 years, and she worked for five years in the early 1990s as press secretary for the General Assembly Republican caucus. She was Howard GOP chairwoman from 1986 to 1992, and she remained a central committee member until 1996.
Her husband was killed in a traffic accident when a 12-ton roll of steel fell from a flatbed truck on Route 108 and hit his car as he drove home from his job in Rockville.