Albert Ceccone was right where he needed to be yesterday morning, doing just what he thinks he has to do to win the Republican nomination for Montgomery County executive.
He was standing outside the entrance of the Silver Spring Metro station at 7:30 a.m., dressed in a yellow suit and the scuffed shoes of an aggressive campaigner, and he was stopping dozens of harried commuters for a quick look, a hurried greeting and, he hopes, at least a temporary impression of who he is.
But Ceccone was frustrated. Even outside the Metro station, that early in the morning, he was faced by what he and others think is the central problem of his campaign.
Standing five yards in front of Ceccone was Charles Gilchrist, a Democratic candidate for county executive. Standing five yards behind him was Democratic County Council candidate Mike Gudis. And five yards from Ceccone's left was John Dean, running for the House of Delegates.
By the time they reached him, many of Ceccone's would - be supporters were carrying several pieces of campaign literature. Their eyes were glazed. Al Ceccone, to most of them, was just another solicitous face.
Ceccone feels he has had a tough job to do as a candidate in Montgomery County, but the battle, he says, has not been principally with his two opponents. The real task has been getting Republican voters to recognize what he proposes, what he has done, and, most importantly, who he is.
For the past five years, Ceccone, 32, has been a hard-working and devoted Republican. He began planning his campaign last December, and he had been preparing for politics for much, much longer. He feels he has sound and consistent positions on the issues.
But Ceccone's principal opponent, Richmond M. (Max) Keeney, a former County Council member and the only Republican on the county Planning Board, is better known amoung county Republicans. For that reason, Ceccone says, some Montgomery Republican leaders, with the help of the media, have allowed Keeney to appropriate Ceccone's more conservative attitudes and have blessed him as the "front-runner."
"If I had gotten fair treatment at the beginning," I could have taken the high road and demolished (Keeney)," Ceccone said."He's a recently converted fiscal conservative. Now, he's suddenly saying what I've been saying for the past five years."
Ceccone hopes that Montgomery voters will become aware of him as a dedicated party regular who has stood firm on traditional Republican concerns. After running unsuccessfully for the County Council in 1974, Ceccone campaigned for present County Executive James Gleason, Rep. Newton I. Steers and former senator J. Glenn Beall, and worked in numerous party organizations and committees.
A self-employed real estate and inance broker, Ceccone grew up in Takoma Park and attended Montgomery College. Divorced, he now lives in Kensington.
Ceccone has worked hard at name recognition. He spent 45 hours at the county fair last month, shaking hands and handing out brochures. He sent a mailing to 44,000 Republicans last week. And before the election, he and his workers plan to hand out 60,000 more Ceccone pamphlets.
All the while, Ceccone has been hammering at what he feels is the crucial difference between himself and Keeney-tax relief. Ceccone has endorsed the Montgomery TRIM referendum, which would reduce the property tax rate from $2.60 to $2.25 for each $100 of assessed valuation, while Keeney has proposed a more moderate 5 percent cut per year in property taxes.
Ceccone insists that Keeney's proposal is "irresponsible because it won't work," and is hoping that enthusiasm for the TRIM philosophy will shift decisive votes to him.
But voter apathy, Ceccone has found, is hard to overcome. "I've talked to many people who don't even know that Jim Gleason isn't running," Ceccone said yesterday. "A lot of people really don's seen to be involved in this race."
Another problem has been money.Ceccone has given $5,000 of his own funds to his campaign, but has raised a total of only slightly less than $9,000, and has been unable to promote himself beyond the thousands of pamphlets and letters he has distributed.
In contrast, Keeney has raised almost $15,000, and the yard signs bearing his name that have appeared in prominent places around the county attest to his financial advantage.
In the absence of heated issues or voter interests, however, Ceccone could still be proppelled past Keeney's more established image by precinct chairmen, whose support can be the determining factor in primary races.
Although precinct chairmen are officially neutral in primary races, Ceccone says 60 of the some 180 chairmen in Montgomery have agreed to support him. Only 12, he says, have told him they were definitely supporting Keeney or Gerald Warren, the third Republican candidate in the race.