Joseph A. Kenary, chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee, is hearing strange voices these days, and they're all talking his language.
"I swear to you, even the Democrats are talking the economy these days. It used to be you heard about social programs, police and law and order, things like that. Now, my God, you hear people saying, 'I don't have any discretionary income, inflation is eating me alive.' I've never heard more people talking about (the economy) like that before," he said.
Kenary presides over one of the most persistent, if endangered, species since the snail darter. Republicans are outnumbered by Democrats in voter registration in the county by a three-to-one margin. Democrats control all seven seats on the County Council and all but one seat in the state delegation.
Republican Rep. Newton I. Steers, Jr., is smoothly campaigning for a second term as the 8th District's man on the Hill.
James P. Gleason, the only county executive Montgomery County has ever had, announced he will not seek a third term in office.
Several hundred Republican faithful gathered in Rockville last week to listen to those seeking office.
Richmond M. (Max) Keeney, one of two announced Republican candidates seeking Gleason's post, told the gathering that "the central issue of the campaign is the 100 percent Democratic (county) council." Keeney characterized the council as oriented toward a no-growth, big government philosophy which had helped erode incomes through higher taxes and inefficient services.
"We need leadership that distinguishes need from desire, that is not afraid of saying no," Keeney said. "Not all programs are bad or wasteful or unnecessary. We have an obligation to help those who need a helping hand," but not an obligation to inflate the bureaucracy with unnecessary employes.
The other announced Republican candidate for county executive, Albert Ceccone, told the assembled precinct workers, "Albert Ceccone believes in a strong national defense, the free enterprise system, fiscal responsibility, and the ability of the individual to solve our problems."
The Democrats were to blame for high taxes and government inefficency, he claimed, adding he would support only other Republican candidates who support "our views."
The group also heard from County Council candidates Jacqueline Simon, Robert E. Brennan, Richard Bogley, A. Chester Flather Jr., Barrie Ciliberti, Barbara Bailey, Malcolm Lawrence, Bert Cumby and Taft Holland Jr.
Carol F. Wallace, Joseph R. Barse and Sylvia Wubnig, who are running as a slate for seats on the Montgomery County school board, drew vigorous applause for their strong and against the renewal 16 months early of Superintendent Charles M. Bernardo's contract.
Other candidates who spoke to the group included Barbara Center, running for school board; Graham Weaver and Luiz Simmons, running for the House of Delegates, and Carlton G. Beall and Don Devine, running for governor.