Early voting has begun and the official primary election in Harford County is Tuesday, April 3, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and there's a lot of talk about politics this season because it's a presidential election year.
Those who vote in the Democratic and Republican primaries, however, will find their choices limited in races for U.S. Congress. Republicans have a solid slate in the contest to pick a presidential nominee, but there is no presidential race in the Democratic primary. More about these races presently.
Bowen for judge
There is a key local race on the ballot, one that has the potential to be resolved when the polls close Tuesday, that being the race for Harford County Circuit Court judge. The same slate of candidates appears on both the Republican and Democratic primary ballot because the state judiciary branch was designed to be nonpartisan. Nominally, the incumbent is M. Elizabeth Bowen, who is facing challenges from Steven J. Scheinin, a perennial candidate for judge, who has run for the bench each time a judge has been on the ballot for more than a decade, and H. Edward Andrews III, who appears to be following in Scheinin's footsteps and is on his way to becoming a perennial also-ran for judge.
Make no mistake: Andrews and Scheinin have expressed, in past races and in campaigning for judge this time around, their sincere desire to be judge. As members of the bar in good standing, they are qualified in the eyes of the state.
Maryland, however, has a system wherein circuit court judges are appointed by the governor, who takes recommendations from a nominating committee consisting of people — lawyers and non-lawyers — from the county where the judge will preside. It's not a perfect system, but in the past several years, Harford County has been fairly well served by the judges who have come up through this appointment system.
Furthermore, Bowen is a respected prosecutor in the office of the Harford County State's Attorney, having worked in the office for more than two decades, and is well-acquainted with the local judiciary. Though she technically is the incumbent judge, having begun serving a 15-year term upon being appointed, her appointment came late in 2011 and she remains in training. While her credentials as a judge are limited, her experience as a prosecutor and lawyer make her the best pick of the three running for judge.
The Aegis recommends voters of both parties cast their ballots for M. Elizabeth Bowen for Harford County Circuit Court judge.
For U.S. Senate
For U.S. Senate, Democrat Ben Cardin is facing token opposition in his primary, and the Republicans have a ticket of 10 also-ran candidates seeking Senate seats. Democrats will do well to stick with Cardin, who has done a reasonably good job in office; on the Republican side, it seems clear the Grand Old Party sees little chance of unseating the incumbent as no one in the field stands out in the crowd. In the U.S. Senate races, The Aegis recommends Democrats vote for Cardin and makes no recommendation in the Republican primary.
Harford County voters also have a say in twoU.S. House of Representativesseats, those from the state's First and Second Districts. Both seats are held by incumbents who are unopposed in their respective primaries and both of whom are fairly secure in their seats.
First District, U.S. House
In the First District, incumbent Republican Andy Harris, of Cockeysville, faces no primary opposition. Three Democrats are running to unseat him, John LaFerla, Kim Letke and Wendy Rosen. The eventual Democratic challenger will face an uphill fight, to put it politely. Letke is a resident of Harford County, which is the largest single county block of votes in the district, so she possibly could parlay this into mounting a challenge to Harris. Rosen also has the potential to mount a meaningful campaign in the fall, as she has managed to run a solid campaign in the primary, something a lot of Congressional candidates have trouble with in the state's geographically largest district.
The Aegis recommends Democrats cast ballots either for Letke or Rosen in the First District primary.
Second District, U.S. House
In the Second District, Democrat C.A. Dutch Ruppersbergeris unopposed in the primary and the eventual Republican nominee will have an uphill battle trying to unseat him. Six Republicans, including a state senator and a delegate from Harford County, respectively, Nancy Jacobs and Rick Impallaria, are running for the opportunity to try to replace Ruppersberger.
Of the two members of the Maryland General Assembly, not to mention the rest of the field, Jacobs is the best candidate on the Republican side. She offers a measure of contrast to Impallaria's fiery and erratic brand of politics. Jacobs is rigid in her stands, but also is civil to those with whom she interacts, a trait that no doubt helped put her in a leadership role in the State Senate Republican Caucus.
The Aegis recommends Republicans in the Second District cast their ballots for Nancy Jacobs in the primary.
The presidential race is the high-profile one on the ballot this time around, as the Republican field is crowded and, to some degree competitive, even as front runner Mitt Romney has consistently amassed a substantial number of nominating delegates. Also on the ballot for the GOP nomination are Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, who have posed the biggest threats to Romney's campaign, as well as four candidates who have been all but bumped from the race: Jon Huntsman, Fred Karger, Rick Perry and Buddy Roemer.
Romney has been regarded as something of a mainstream darling since before the first primary ballots were cast, but he has failed, at least so far, to generate the kind of excitement supporters of Paul, Santorum and Gingrich have instilled in their smaller, but dedicated groups of supporters. Any of the four could do a good job as a standard bearer for what traditionally have been Republican schools of thought, but those schools of thought aren't necessarily in step with each other. A vote for either Gingrich, Paul, Romney or Santorum would be a vote that will help decide the future direction of the Republican Party. Voters are reminded to cast ballots for the delegates committed to the candidates they favor to have the most impact.