With Del. Barry Glassman officially put forth as the choice of county Republican leaders to replace J. Robert Hooper in the state Senate, the focus now turns to the scramble to fill the House seat.
On Thursday, the Harford County Republican Central Committee interviewed Glassman, the only candidate who applied. Members voted unanimously to forward his name to Gov. Martin O'Malley, who will make the appointment official.
The committee put Glassman through "a rigorous set of questions just as though there were multiple candidates for the job," said Michael A. Geppi Sr., central committee chairman.
"Delegate Glassman did an excellent job in this process," Geppi said. "We are confident that he will be an excellent senator for Harford County."
Glassman, 45, has represented northern Harford for nine years in the legislature and previously spent eight years on the County Council.
"The committee has confirmed my name for the appointment," he said. "There is still the gubernatorial appointment, but I anticipate things will go smoothly."
When he announced his plan to resign, Hooper endorsed Glassman as his successor. Hooper, 71, has battled colon cancer for the past few years and suffered a mild heart attack late last year. He told supporters Nov. 14 that his health prevents him from continuing in office. His resignation takes effect Dec. 31.
Glassman said he was heartened by the faith of the local Republican Party and by Hooper's encouragement through the appointment process.
"While I look forward to working in the Senate, this appointment is really bittersweet, since I have worked so closely with Senator Hooper for many years," Glassman said.
The Senate district includes 78,170 registered voters in northern Harford County and much of the Bel Air area.
Glassman, who began his political career in 1986 with his election to the central committee, said he plans to continue Hooper's tradition of service to northern Harford County.
"A lot of senators work on broader, statewide issues," Glassman said. "I will be active on those, but I plan to keep closer to my roots and work on local issues."
Most political insiders now expect a scramble for Glassman's seat in the House.
District 35A is home to several prominent Republicans, including County Council President Billy Boniface, Councilman Chad Shrodes and former Councilman Lance C. Miller, whose names have surfaced in discussions about a replacement for Glassman.
Some central committee members also have been rumored as being interested. Any member of the committee who applies would be excluded from taking part in the nomination process, Geppi said.
"I think we will be hearing a lot of names, and a lot of them will be my friends and associates," Glassman said. "I will not choose. I will leave the selection to the central committee."
The committee has set tentative dates for the selection process. The vacancy will be advertised in local newspapers, and prospective candidates will have until Dec. 14 to apply. The committee has set Dec. 22 aside to interview candidates.
As they did with the Senate vacancy, members will ask candidates questions to gauge party loyalty and to make sure the nominee is electable and able to raise money.
"There is no limit on the number of candidates who can apply, and we expect a wide-open field, with as many as a dozen names," Geppi said. "We want someone who will be an effective delegate and advocate for the needs of Harford County. It could very likely be someone new to the General Assembly with no elected experience."
The committee intends to fill the two seats quickly, Geppi said.
"We want both seats filled when the General Assembly opens in January," he said.
Glassman also has served as leader of the county legislative delegation for the past seven years and will relinquish that role when he moves to the Senate.
"Historically, Harford's leader comes from the House side," he said.
Filling the House seat
Prospective candidates for the House of Delegates should submit a letter of intent and a resume, postmarked no later than Dec. 14, to the Republican Central Committee of Harford County, attention Michael A. Geppi Sr., Secretary, P.O. Box 289, Bel Air 21014. Candidates should also request a questionnaire by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.