"Gee whiz, I don't think a lot of people have heard of most of the independents," John Lally said in his most innocent voice. "At least that's the impression I get."
Maybe an impression, more likely the party line. Lally, press secretary to Prince George's County Executive Winfield M. Kelly Jr., is paid to make sure no one starts believing that the all-powerful Democratic Organization slate, headed by Kelly, can be beaten.
But throughout the county, especially since the results of Kelly's own poll showed him trailing Lawrence J. Hogan in the county executive's race, there appear to be races where - at the very least - the candidate on the Democratic slate is fighting for a nomination.
No where is this truer than in the 21st District. There, the gloves are off in the four-way battle for the Maryland Senate nomination and the 10-way battle for three House of Delegate nominations.
The incumbent and the slate candidate in the Senate race is Arthur Dorman, a two-term senator and leader of the Prince George's delegation in Annapolis.
Dorman is being challenged by former county Human Relations Commission member Leonard I. Colodny, George A. Leathers Jr. and George Wood.
Colodny has raised the ire of Dorman and the organization. Dorman admits he was "shocked" when Colodny was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police political organization, since it was he (Dorman) who introduced the state law enforcement officers bill of rights and Colodny who bitterly attacked it.
In fact, when Dorman recently saw Mike Knapp, the head of the police political committee, at a reception for Ted Venetoulis, Dorman told Knapp he was shocked by the endorsement. Some observers described the discussion as "heated."
"I don't get into heated discussions. Anyone who knows me will tell you that," Dorman said later.
Three nights later, at a candidates' reception, Dorman got up and walked out when Colodny, during his turn as a speaker, began attacking Dorman's Senate record.
Leathers, who was also present, says it's fine with him if Dorman and Colodny slug it out. "I'll let them talk about the negative and I'll present people with positive ideas," he said.
The bitterness of the campaign has gone beyond words, however. Lawn signs for all the Senate candidates have been torn down, and Colodny says several of his have been burned.
"Stealing a sign or taking a sign down is one thing, but when a guy comes home and finds burns marks on his lawn, that's another," he said. Many Colodny supporters have taken their signs down at night. "If intimidation is their game, it's working," Colodny said.
There have been so personal vendettas in the delegate race but it is being extremely hard fought.
Each of the seven independent candidates claim he is running third. All concede that Kay G. Bienen, who beat the Democratic slate in 1974, is going to finish first in the primary.
The fight is for the second and third spots, giving those candidates the right to advance to the general election. Incumbents Pauline Menes and Andrew O. Mothershead are the Democratic slate candidate and they claim to be quite comfortable.
But a number of the independents have been out knocking on doors almost continously, and there would appear to be at least a chance that Menes or Mothershead will come in fourth.
James A. Forsyth, a 20 year old Laurel city councilman, has [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] endorsements from the AFL-CIO,the teacher's union and the police.
"Forsyth's trying hard, he's given himself some endorsements," a slate candidate from district said. "But I just don't think he had enough name recognition to be Motherhead or Menes."
Forsyth, of course, disagrees. I think they know they've got a fight on their hands," he said. "Otherwise, why would they be working so hard to convince everyone that they don't have any problems?"