As the bands played, the crowds swarmed and the beer flowed and overflowed for Republican Audrey Scott and Democrat Steny Hoyer in the Prince George's County congressional primary last week, 29 other men and women -- the primary losers -- were forced to contemplate the day's doings in a much gloomier light.
Like Scott and Hoyer, they spent the day soliciting votes, hurrying from one gathering to another and hoping to emerge, when the polls finally closed on the special primary election, at the top of a record heap of congressional candidates. But when it was all over at 8 p.m. April 7, these 29 contenders had lost out and were instantly metamorphosed from candidates to just part of the also-ran pack.
One week later, as the professional politicians quietly returned to their official duties, the dreamers resumed their law practices and businesses and the perennial office-seekers began scouting about for the next test of political fortitude, most were viewing the month-long race and their unsuccessful showings somewhat philosophically.
"It might be an entree into the future," said Democrat William J. Halterman, whose only experience with elective politics until he lost in last week's primary with 69 votes was running a fictitious "Captain Moron for president" campaign in 1976.
After a week's reflection on the contest, Halterman, a self-employed writer, says he hopes his 69 votes will serve as the beginning of a fruitful political career: "People came away with more respect for me than a lot of the other candidates who were yo-yos." Nonetheless, Halterman admits he was a little depressed when, after taking a nap on election night, he awoke to learn he had lose, [but] you hope you're going to get more than 69 votes," he said.
Republican Frederick C. Taylor, who made his fifth unsuccessful run for Congress, was more accepting of his loss. Unlike Scott, Hoyer and a few other contenders, Taylor dispensed with the usual "victory party" that all candidates, regardless of their chances, plan for election night.
Instead Taylor, a retired federal worker, sat at home waiting for the votes to roll in. With only 66 ballots cast in his favor, Taylor did not have to wait long to abandon his election-night vigil and go to bed. "I felt, well, there's winners and losers and this time I'm a loser," he said, adding that he does not intend to run again.
Then there were the candidates who made slightly better showings in the Fifth District primary race, such as state Sen. Edward Conroy, Del. Stewart Bainum Jr., and Country Council member Sue Mills, who came in third, fourth and fifth respectively on the Democratic side, and Larry Hogan Jr. and John Lillard, who came in second and third respectively on the Republican side. They, too, have spent the last week or so since the election contemplating their defeats and looking for the positive aspects.
"I've made my name out there [because of the race]," said Lillard.
"Many people would like me to run again. I'll decide in about a month." Meanwhile, Lillard said he intends to catch up on his law practice.
"We made a lot of new friends, which is always nice to do," said Bainum, a Montgomery County legislator who spent about $22 per vote for his 5,858-vote, fourth-place showing in the Democratic primary. Exactly what all these new friends in Prince George's will do for Bainum in his Montgomery legislative district is somewhat uncertain but, future political plans aside, the young legislator said all in all, he'd "rather be in Steny Hoyer's position.
Like Bainum, Conroy and two other state legislators entered in the primary contests hurried back to their Annapolis duties after the primary returns came in against them. For Bainum at least, there was some solace in returning to the State-house: "They had a pool going and most of [the delegates who had entered] bet I'd finish in the top three. Quite a few thought I'd come in first or second," said Bainum.
For Larry Hogan Jr., the 24-year-old son and namesake of the Prince George's County executive, there was no such comfort in returning to work for the county government. Having started as the favorite in the Republican primary, Hogan could only continue to wonder at the drubbing he received election night from Bowie Mayor Audrey Scott.
The overwhelming returns left Hogan near tears on election night, but one week later he was attempting to adopt an upbeat view of his first foray into elective politics: "It was a good experience," he said.
Will he try it again?
"That's something I have to give a lot of thought to.