Ulman nominates Merdon


October 28, 2007|By Larry Carson

The heated rhetoric and political rivalry of last year's race for Howard County executive apparently have faded.

After a chance encounter followed by a friendly chat and a later lunch date, County Executive Ken Ulman has submitted former rival Christopher J. Merdon's name to the County Council for appointment to the county's new revenue authority. The nomination will be formally introduced Nov. 5.

The authority's first project is construction of a parking garage to serve the Main Street business district in Ellicott City, which is Merdon's old County Council district.

Ulman, a Democrat, and Merdon, a Republican, were council members last term and verbally jousted with one another as they both sought the county executive's job. After Ulman's decisive November victory, however, Merdon withdrew from public and political life.

"I think we always had a lot of respect for each other," Ulman said. "We agreed on more things than we disagreed on."

He added that even during the campaign, their differences were more about policy than personalities. After a chance meeting and friendly chat at a restaurant opening in Maple Lawn, Maryland a few weeks ago, Ulman said he began thinking about a possible role for Merdon, who expressed a desire to help.

"I just needed to give it a break and let the new council and county executive take over," Merdon said. "I'm still interested in things in the community."

He said that as Ellicott City's former councilman, "I'm not sure that there's anybody else in Howard County who knows more about that topic [Main Street parking] than I do."

The two men had lunch Tuesday at Tersiguel's restaurant on Main Street, followed by a walk around the historic district. Along the way, the political hatchet was buried.

"I have no intention of running for office," Merdon said. "But I'd like to be involved in some capacity."

Thinking conventions

Modern presidential nominating conventions have become more like scripted television infomercials than real political events, but that does not mean there is a dearth of people willing to give up a week's time and a few thousand dollars next year to attend as delegates.

The long list of Democratic and Republican presidential candidates and the early Feb. 12 Maryland primary, when party voters choose delegates, have the party faithful eager.

"It's really just to show support for the candidates. It's exciting to be part of the process," said Howard County Councilman Greg Fox, a western county Republican who is likely to be named a delegate by the Mitt Romney campaign to the Republican convention, which is to start Sept. 1 in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Councilwoman Jen Terrasa, a Democrat who represents the southeastern county, is interested in going to the Democratic gathering, which is to begin Aug. 25 in Denver.

"It's going to be an exciting year," said the Barack Obama supporter. "It's going to be a good year to be a Democrat."

Del. Guy Guzzone, a fellow Obama loyalist, also is seeking a spot on that ticket, while his wife, Pam, wants to be a Hillary Rodham Clinton delegate. Deanna Peel, Guzzone's longtime special assistant, favors former Sen. John Edwards.

Carol Fisher, a Clinton supporter and a veteran Democratic Party worker in Howard County, hopes to go, too, but like others she is aware of how difficult it is to be chosen.

The basic rules are simple. File a statement of candidacy with the State Board of Elections by Dec. 3, and then run in the congressional district in which you live. However, the reality is far more complicated.

Fisher, for example, will run in Maryland's 7th District, which covers large parts of Baltimore City and Baltimore County, plus western Howard, Ellicott City and North Laurel. The 3rd District covers Elkridge, east Columbia, Jessup and parts of Fulton in the eastern county.

"You'll be on the ballot with people in all the counties that your congressional district covers," Fisher said.

"I'll be [on the ballot] with a group of people who will run in Howard County, but I'll also be in Baltimore City," she said. "They're not going to know me from the floor."

The system differs depending on the party.

Democrats will have 99 delegates and 15 alternates statewide, while Republicans have 37 delegates and an alternate for each one.

Greg Pecoraro, chairman of the rules committee for Maryland Democrats, said 46 Democratic delegates will be chosen by primary voters in Maryland's eight congressional districts, and the rest are appointed. The Democrats require election of equal numbers of male and female delegates.

In Howard's two congressional districts, Democrats will choose six delegates (three male and three female) from each district. But who goes to the convention might be determined by how well their candidate does in the primary. The party's delegates will be divided proportionately among the candidates based on the primary outcome. Any candidate who fails to get at least 15 percent of the vote gets no delegates.

Louis M. Pope, a former chairman of the Howard County Republican Party and now a Republican national committeeman for Maryland, said, "Anyone who is a registered Republican can run for delegate, but without a [candidate's] name behind you, you're not going to get elected."

Of the 37 GOP delegates, three have been named. Then each major GOP campaign will field 24 delegates statewide, plus an alternate for each. Ten more will be elected at large at a state party convention, and three are automatic -- the state committeeman and committeewoman, and the state party chairman. Howard Republican Party Chairwoman Loretta Shields will be a Romney delegate, Pope said.

Convention delegates hammer out a party platform and vote on presidential and vice presidential nominees, Pope said, so there are plenty of interesting activities.

"It's actually an exciting fulfillment of the political experience for people who have worked very, very hard in the campaign," he said.


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