Dennis M. Callahan, the former mayor of Annapolis and the director of Anne Arundel County's recreation and parks department, is expected to declare his candidacy for county executive tomorrow at Crofton Country Club.
Callahan would not comment before his announcement. But officials at the country club confirmed that he will make a "political announcement" at the clubhouse at noon.
Fellow Democrats have expected for several months that Callahan, 64, would step forward to challenge county Sheriff George F. Johnson IV for the party's nomination. They said they look to his inclusion in the race as a positive but also perceive the road ahead for Callahan as daunting.
They said, nevertheless, that Callahan's entry in the race will offer a needed counterweight to the Johnson campaign, and that his tenacity will present a formidable test for the frontrunner.
"When he enters the race, he will give 100 percent toward his effort, trying to defeat George Johnson in the primary, but he has a formidable challenge ahead of him," said Carl O. Snowden, an aide to County Executive Janet S. Owens.
Snowden, a former Annapolis alderman, served alongside Callahan in late 1980s and lost to Callahan in the 1997 Democratic primary for Annapolis mayor by 155 votes.
Ann Marie Remillard, head of the county Democratic Central Committee, said: "This is going to be a fantastic election, and [people] will come out in droves to vote."
Five Republicans also are in the race to replace Democrat Owens, who cannot run for a third term.
Callahan would enter a primary race against a clear frontrunner in Johnson, who reported that he raised more than $372,000 last year and has more than $318,000 on hand.
The three-term sheriff, who has been mounting a campaign for county executive since winning re-election in 2002, has used his campaign funds to hire a countywide staff and produce all the signs and stickers he says he needs to win.
Johnson's supporters are undaunted by the prospect of a challenger. "This hasn't been a secret," said Mike Rendina, a spokesman for Johnson's campaign.
"We have been definitely expecting him to run. This doesn't change anything for us," Rendina said. "We need to take every opponent seriously, and we are. We are looking forward to having an open, honest dialogue on the issues."
Elected as Annapolis mayor in 1985, Callahan focused on the needs of public housing, created jobs and departments, cut the property tax to its lowest level in 10 years, created a $10 million budget surplus and spent two years dealing with problems at the Housing Authority.
Perhaps his most public effort was fighting drugs. He addressed a national drug conference in Atlanta and was invited to a national town meeting on drugs anchored by Ted Koppel of ABC News, but he never got a chance to speak.
In one of his most controversial moves, Callahan temporarily canceled games in the predominantly black Annapolis Summer Basketball League in 1988 after a coach was charged with selling cocaine.
He lost in the 1989 mayoral primary to Alfred A. Hopkins.
He turned around in 1990 and ran for Anne Arundel County Executive, but he fell in the primary by a nearly 2-to-1 margin to County Councilman Theodore J. Sophocleus, who later lost in the general election.
Callahan ran for mayor as an independent in 1993 against the incumbent Hopkins and lost. In 1997, he fell in the general election to Republican Dean L. Johnson, who took 55 percent of the vote. Owens selected him to run the recreation and parks department shortly after she took office, in 1998.
Johnson's campaign representatives said that based on the money that the sheriff has raised, they aren't surprised by the timing of Callahan's firstname.lastname@example.org