In the 19th Legislative District, which has the most Democratic voters in Montgomery County, the heated election battles usually are waged in the Democratic primary.
It was that way again this year, when four popular Democrats challenged four respected Democratics incumbents for the House and Senate. Two from each ticket won, resulting at least in theory, in a general election slate mixing the two factions that typically engage in interparty wars.
Because of that race, Sidney Kramer, a former County Council member who has no Republican opposition, is virtually assured of election as the district's next senator after narrowly defeating incumbent Lawrence Wiser in the primary.
Yet the Democrats are taking no chances in their rounds of the Silver Spring-Wheaton area.
"It's an unpredictable year," said Del. Lucille Maurer, who has served in the legislature since 1969. "It's appropriate to work as hard as one can."
Republican Mary Akerley, assistant executive director for services at the Centers for the Handicapped in Montgomery and Prince George's, is relying on that unpredictability to buoy her own chances for a House seal. The other Republican, Herbert S. Rosenberg, a small business, has been an infrequent campaigner.
The Democratic ticket is attempting to respond to a common criticism of the county's elected leadership - that the local officeholders and the county's legislative delegation don't seem to work together.
Maurer, Del. Helen Koss, a two-term incumbent, and Idamae Garrott, a two-term County executivee in 1974, are stressing the blend of experience they provide from their local and state positions.
"With that kind of mix you can bridge the gap that has existed between Annapolis and Rockville for so many years," said Kramer.
Maurer, an education finance expert in the legislature, is an architect of the formula for distributing state education aid to the counties. She serves on the governor's task force that is revamping that formula.
Maurer is chairman of the education subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee and the Commission on Intergovernmental Cooperation. She also served on the task force that devised the new homeowner's tax credit, or "circuit breaker" program, which she wants to se expanded to renters.
Koss, chairman of the Election Law Subcommittee since 1973 and chairman of the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics since 1972, is best known for her "clean government" and legislative reform measures. She led the successful battle to make all government meetings public and sponsored legislation to end discrimination against women in credit, insurance and housing and to establish a state center for displaced homemakers.
Garrott came from the other Democratic slate in the primary.
She said she would work for tax credits for tenants, programs for the handicapped, housing assistance for senior citizens and general tax relief for the "overburdened properly owner" by removing fat from the budget.
While on the County Council, Garrott wrote the county Consumer Protection Law. Her council experience will "provide expertise which does not exist in the county's legislative delegation today." No other current member or candidate besides Kramer has served on the council.
"The situation is comparable to having all the rules made for football by people never having played football," she said. "We feel we can be of great help in promoting local government and pushing for greater home rule.
Akerley, who has built a constituency through her local, state and federal lobbying for handicapped causes and civic ties, said she would work for "all vulnerable populations."
She also favors completion of Metro, an improved East-West road system in the county, more legislative control over the state budget and energy substitutes for fossil fuels.
In assessing her chances, Akerley cites the division in Democratic ranks in the primary, which she hopes will lead to some party crossovers to her. "I simply remind people that they have three votes, and I offer them some options they've not had before," she said.
Rosenberg could not be reached for comment.