For the last six weeks, Gloria C. Colbert of Oxon Hill has been covering Maryland's 27th legislative district, distributing flyers and attempting to persuade voters that they need not only a Republican delegate, but a black Republican delegate.
By early this week, she was unable to hide her discouragement.
"You don't get much support," she said. "The incumbents are entrenched. The reason is that people are so apathetic. I've even tried going to some of the Democratic functions - but nobody shows up for those either."
Taxes, machine politics and personalities may decide most of the elections in Prince George's County, but in the 27th district, the determining factor is likely to be boredom. Incumbent Democratic delegates Charles S. Blumenthal, Frnank J. Komenda and Frederick C. Rummage are basking in the massive silence of an apparently disinterested electorate.
"I wish I could tell you that something exciting is happening in the race," said Blumenthal. "But I can't. We haven't had the kind of campaigns here that some of the other districts have."
Meanwhile, Republican candidates Colbert and Richard Iannucci are almost desperately trying to awaken voters to what they see as the unresponsive work of the district's Democratic delegation.
"What the Democrats promised is not what they delivered," argued Iannucci. "It's essentially a credibility problem."
Iannucci says his analysis of the incumbents voting records shows that "Rummage and Komenda have one of the worst voting records on taxes." Blumenthal, he says, "has a decent one." In particular, Iannucci critizes Rummage and Komenda for voting for the one percent sales tax increase in 1977, which he says "was totally unnecessary in view of the $130 million surplus the legislature finished with last year."
In addition, Iannucci has attacked Rummage for retaining his position as executive director of the Prince George's County Educators' Association while a delegate as "a conflict of interest."
"That's sickening," Rummage responded. Washington newspapers. Rummage said, have "given me repeated commendation on my handling of education issues as a legislature."
Iannucci promises that he would vote to revoke the one percent sales tax increase of two years ago, would support "drastic reductions in property taxes," and would seek mandatory sentences for repeat criminal offenders "without probation or plea-bargaining."
Colbert's approach to voters has been vastly different. In fact, Colbert, a former Democrat, has more liberal stands on some issues that the three Democratic delegates.
"The reason I ran as a Republican," she said, "is that if I had been in the Democratic primary, I wouldn't have had a snowball's choice in hell of getting on the general election ballot."
Colbert contends that both the Democratic and Republican parties have ignored or worked against the interest of blacks. "The Democrats take us for granted and the Republican write us off," she said. "There are 40 to 45 percent blacks in this district, and no one represents us. I can do it because I'm an independent soul."
Colbert said her first priority in the legislature would be housing and she would try to correct what she believes are badly-managed and discriminatory housing practices in the county.
"The whites are manipulated and blacks are steered," she said. "Soon the whites will move out and only the black middle class will be here to take care of the poor."
The Republicans' charges of broken promises and inattention to blacks have failed to ruffle Blumenthal, Rummage and Komenda, who, unlike most of the Democrats in the county, have not bothered to raise or spend any campaign funds beyond their contributions for county-wide Democratic literature.
"The Republicans are on the ballot by the simple expedient of having paid a $50 filing fee," Blumenthal said. "But they don't have many volunteers. They don't have visibility. We've been serving the people of this district for many years."
Rummage, who has served in the House of Delegates since 1966, is one of the senior members of the Prince George's County delegation, while Blumenthal is an eight-year veteran and Komenda was elected in 1974.
Blumenthal said that new registrations in the 27th have been running 5 1/2 to 1 in favor of the Democrats for the last three months, adding further to the three to one registration advantage the incumbents already have over their Republican opponents.
Consequently, Blumenthal says, the Democrats have enjoyed the campaigning they've done. "It is given us a chance to discuss the issues with the voters," he said. "Actually, it's the type of thing we do around the year. For the campaign, we've just continued our regular activities as delegates."
Incumbent State Sen. Peter Bozick is running unopposed in the general election, as he did in the Democratic primary last month.