Local Republican leaders expect to recommend a successor next week for state Sen. Robert H. Kittleman, who died Sept. 11 after battling leukemia.
Several candidates are expected to apply for the seat representing District 9, which covers much of western Howard County and a slice of neighboring Carroll County. Among them are Del. Gail H. Bates, who is one of two delegates from District 9, and County Council member Christopher J. Merdon (R-Northeast County). County Council member Allan H. Kittleman (R-West County) said early this week he had not decided whether he would seek his father's seat. He is also considering a run for county executive.
Also said to be contemplating the state Senate seat is Trent M. Kittleman, Robert Kittleman's widow, who is Maryland's deputy secretary of transportation.
A recommendation to Gov. Robert L. Erhlich Jr. (R) is expected to be made by Howard's nine-member GOP Central Committee and Carroll's seven-member Republican committee during a closed meeting Wednesday.
The vacancy already has set off a political scramble that could help sort out the GOP field for the 2006 race for Howard County's executive. Incumbent James N. Robey (D) is prohibited from seeking reelection because of term limits. On the GOP side, Merdon and Kittleman have been thinking about running for county executive.
"I believe they have worked this out so that one of them would move out of the way for the other one," said former county GOP chairman Louis Pope, a Republican National Committee member.
The person named to succeed Kittleman would have to stand for election in 2006, possibly facing Robey as the Democratic candidate, Merdon said this week. In an interview Tuesday, Robey said he wasn't thinking about the Senate race but added, "I never rule out anything in life."
Ehrlich is likely to accept the central committees' recommendation to fill the seat until the election. But the committees could each send three names to the governor, in which case he would make a choice. He also could pick someone whose name isn't on the list, but that is highly unlikely.
This week, candidates were seeking support from local leaders while also trying to keep a relatively low profile until a memorial service for Kittleman concluded Tuesday night.
"This is a very fluid situation," said Howard's GOP chairman, Howard M. Rensin. "We have been getting lots of calls."
Candidates who wish to be considered must submit their résumé by tomorrow.
The move to replace Kittleman marks the fifth time since Ehrlich became governor that the Howard GOP will recommend a successor for a county legislator.
Michelle Jefferson, chairman of the Carroll County Republicans, said she did not foresee any candidates applying from Carroll. She had no prediction about the outcome, however. "Howard County's dynamics are different from ours."
With about 115,000 residents, District 9 is the state's most Republican district. Pope noted that in 2002, Kittleman ran without a Democratic opponent.