This year's shootout at the Democratic corral in Montgomery County begins tonight.
Four incumbent legislators, State Sen. C. Lawrence (Larry) Wiser and delegates Lucille B. Maurer, Eugene Zander and Helen Koss, will launch their reelection campaigns at E. Brooke Lee Junior High School in Silver Spring.
Within weeks, however, another group of Democrats from the 19th Legislative District also will be campaigning for Democratic votes in the September primary. This group is expected to include Sidney Kramer for state senator and Idamae Garrott, Bebe Bailey and Phil Ochs for the delegate slots.
Such a match-up, within a single district, of people who basically appeal to the same liberal constituency would be almost unheard of in most other districts.
But in Montgomery County, with its history of political in-fighting, the unheard of is often commonplace.
Take, for example, Sidney Kramer's challenge to incumbent Wiser for the Senate slot:
"I feel the district's senator has not represented his district. In the last four years he never came in once to see what was happening on the WSSC (Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission), the County Council or anything. The gentleman who is my opponent voted for the sales tax, which was raised 25 percent (from 4 percent to 5 percent). I think the voters of this district want something else."
Wiser, in rebuttal scoffs at the idea that he hasn't kept up with things. "We have very good contact with people, we are quite knowledgeable about the district. The sales tax, which went from 4 percent to 5 percent, enabled us to help homeowners. We have an excellent legislative team. I really think the only reason Sid is running is that he wants to be in office."
Kramer was a member of the county's Democratic Central Committee from 1964 to 1966 and a County Council member from 1970 to 1974, witha year as vice chairman of the council in 1974. He lost in the 1974 general election in a bid to upset then-incumbent Rep. Gilbert Gude (R). He says strongly that the desire to serve is the only reason he is running.
"The state delegation doesn't have any real contact with local matters," repeated Idamae Garrott, echoing Kramer's remarks. She is a former member of the Montgomery County Council and a woman with strong name recognition. Garrott will neither confirn or deny that she and Kramer plan on running as a slate.
"There is no one in the state delegation who's been on the council, and I would like to see that changed," she said.
Garrott is the former chairwoman of the county's League of Women Voters and a political activist long identified with strict interpretation of the county's "wedges and corridors" master plan for controlled development.
Under state rules, however, which hold that within a legislative district the top three vote getters are elected, an election victory for Garrott would mean a loss for either Maurer, Zander or Koss, each of whom has previously won at least two terms and often responds to the same constituency as Garrott.
Maurer said she will run with her colleagues on their record as "perhaps the most effective district representatives in Annapolis." She personally will stress her work in helping the school district keep millions of dollars of state aid and strengthening child neglect and abuse laws.
"The idea that we are out of touch (with county citizens) is ludicrous," she said.
Into this stew is yet another element: The charge of bossism, which by New York and Chicago standards must seem rather quaint.
Supporters of Kramer and Garrott say that Wiser "controls" the party machinery, and because of that Kramer and Company will have nothing to do with the endorsement conventions sponsored by the two Montgomery County groups - the Montgomery Democrats, whose members generally are party officials and active Democrats, and the Democratic Coalition, which is in effect open to every registered Democrat.
At a recent election of the Montgomery Democrats, each of the 21 people elected in the 19th District was a Wiser-Maurer-Koss-Zander supporter. Wiser denied that this was "bossism," but rather reinforced the incumbents' contentions that they are popular within their district.
Friends of Garrott think that she and Kramer will be joined on a ticket by Bebe Bailey and Phil Ochs. Bailey is the publisher of The Wheaton News, a community paper. In 1969 she ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the County Council. Ochs is an official of the Montgomery County Tenants Association, which claims to represent 17,000 apartment dwellers.
One political observer speculated that Ochs' apartment-house troops could be used as boiler-room workers in the battle against Wiser-Maurer-Zander-Koss, while Bailey's active support in the business community could also be enlisted.