Major Fall Matchups Set in Growing Area

By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Several incumbents appeared to have beaten back strong and spirited challenges within their parties in Southern Maryland yesterday, and some political novices advanced to the general election, signaling a desire for new leadership in a once-rural region that is being transformed by rapid growth.

Last night's primary results set in motion several high-profile general election campaigns. Among them is a state Senate race pitting a well-financed Republican against a Democrat in St. Mary's County who has held office for more than two decades.

Results took longer to compute than in previous elections, and returns were still being processed early this morning. But a few trends emerged in the region made up of Charles, Calvert and St. Mary's counties.

Turnout, which election officials had predicted would be high because of several tight Democratic statewide contests, seemed light. Although official turnout figures were not available, it appeared that in Charles, the most populous of the three counties, fewer than 10 percent of voters cast ballots.

In Charles County

An experiment in slate-making appeared to have backfired for Democratic state legislators as Peter Murphy, a longtime loyalist whom party leaders rejected for their slate, toppled the incumbents' chosen candidate, Gregory V. Billups, and secured one of three delegate nominations.

With 40 percent of precincts reporting, Del. Sally Y. Jameson (D-Charles) appeared to be the highest vote-getter in the race, with Del. Murray D. Levy (D-Charles) second. Murphy held a solid lead over Billups.

Jameson, Levy and state Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (D-Charles) recruited Billups, a Waldorf technology executive, to join their ticket. They thought Billups, who is black, would help represent Charles' growing black population.

But some party leaders shunned the formation of a slate, saying voters should select the nominees, and this resentment breathed new life into Murphy's campaign.

"We've had a very tough race here," Jameson said last night. "There are a lot of people who did not care for a slate."

Democratic nominees in Southern Maryland are planning to join the party's gubernatorial candidate, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, at a unity rally Friday night in Waldorf. Levy said he will support all of the party's nominees in November.

"Greg Billups is a good man, he was a good candidate and we were proud to run with him, but the people have chosen," Levy said. "The ultimate deciders of these things are the voters, not the incumbents."

The close of a bruising Democratic primary launched what promises to be a fiercely fought general election campaign as W. Daniel Mayer (R-Charles) tries to hold onto his seat against an energized Democratic Party that is eager to sweep the state legislative contests in heavily Democratic Charles.

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