Though Republicans won all three legislative seats and the County Council race in far western Howard County, the celebratory champagne was flowing for the Western Howard County Democratic Club at a gathering last week at the Glenwood library.
Members of the seven-month-old club are delighted at the Democrats' successes elsewhere in the county and countywide -- notably in the county executive race. And they are tantalized by their chances for making inroads in western Howard, the only part of the county where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats.
Rich Corkran, a Hammond High School teacher who carried the Democrats' banner against re-elected GOP state Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, said Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley called him after the election.
"I was very impressed," Corkran said.
O'Malley pointed out that Corkran got a higher percentage of votes in the Carroll County portion of the Senate district than did O'Malley.
"It made my day," Corkran said.
In addition to capturing the county executive position, Democrats enlarged their majority on the County Council to a 4-1 edge, and took control of the state Senate delegation, with County Executive James N. Robey's victory over incumbent Republican state Sen. Sandra B. Schrader.
Derek Walker, state Democratic Party executive director, encouraged those at the meeting Tuesday night to build on the higher-than-expected vote totals that Democrats achieved in legislative District 9A and County Council District 5.
Kittleman and Dels. Gail H. Bates and Warren E. Miller, and County Council candidate Greg Fox, all Republicans, won their races.
Bates said later that Democrats might be encouraged, but she warned that they should not write her party-mates off quite yet.
"I certainly don't take anything for granted. I work with everybody in my district," Bates said. "I know we need to work for everybody and represent everybody." This election "is not a mandate," she said.
Miller pointed out that he won western county precincts easily. "Where they made their gains was in the east" in Ellicott City precincts, he said.
But Democrat David Osmundson came within 2,500 votes of Miller's totals and beat him in some eastern precincts. In addition, Corkran got 39 percent of the Howard vote, while Democratic council candidate Don Dunn received 38 percent. Osmundson got 5,000 votes more than the last Democrat received in 2002, Walker pointed out.
"If we start now ... we can win one or both [House of Delegates] seats in 9A," Walker told the group. "We want to build on David's success this year."
Michael MacPherson, the county Democratic Party chairman, said he also thinks Democrats can make inroads in western Howard.
"I have been saying for a long time that the demographics are changing out here. People moving in are D's not R's."
The champagne toast was offered by Romayne Smith, who raised a glass to "positive change and a brighter future for working families, our county and hopefully, the whole world." But the gathering really was about finding ways to build on Democratic successes in Howard County -- even in western Howard.
Despite the general satisfaction, Osmundson said that if he had received more party support, he might have won.
"I felt like the state party let me down," he said, pointing out that Republicans in the area ran as a team, "and we didn't." If he had received more party support, he said, it would have been easier to raise money, although Walker said the party could not offer direct help to every candidate.
Osmundson, 64, and Dunn, 77, said they don't plan to run in four years.
Putting your heart and time into a political campaign only to be rejected by voters can be rough emotionally, and Joan Lancos, a Republican who lost a race against then-County Council candidate Ken Ulman in 2002, offered personal insight into what some people might be going through now.
"You feel like you're invested in this community, and they know you, and when you don't win the precinct where you live, that definitely feels like it's personal," Lancos said.
A veteran community activist and former county Planning Board chairwoman, Lancos knew she was fighting the odds in heavily Democratic west Columbia, but that didn't make losing any easier, she said.
"Running for office is the most difficult thing you can do," she said. "You're putting yourself out there. You shouldn't take it personally, but you sure do. It feels like a personal rejection. You're kind of numb. My husband says I'm still not over it."
Not every candidate reacts that way, of course.
Mary Beth Tung of Clarksville has run twice as a Republican for House of Delegates in District 13 and lost both times, but she is feeling OK, she said.
"You have to go into these elections knowing you might lose," she said. "As I said after the last election, I have my life back, I have a great family that I can now spend more time with, and my business is doing well.
"I just hope everyone stays active in their communities and in politics. They are all good people and have a lot to contribute to Howard County."