Nearly a dozen potential candidates have already emerged in the Prince George's county executive race, but incumbent Lawrence J. Hogan, who sparked the political scramble with his decision to run for U.S. Senate, continues to cast a shadow over the field.
The crowd of possible contenders includes Maryland Lt. Gov. Samuel Bogley and Prince George's County Council chairman Parris N. Glendening. But many in the field question whether Hogan will in fact go through with the Senate race. The skeptics still view the popular county executive, who captured his post with 61 percent of the vote three years ago, as the man to beat in 1982.
"Mr. Hogan's decision today means absolutely nothing for tomorrow," said County Council member William B. Amonett, one of those considering the race.
With the election still more than a year away, much of the current maneuvering is clearly preliminary. The potential candidates are still working mainly behind the scenes, assessing the level of their support and keeping an eye on other issues, such as redistricting, that could help determine their final decisions. Glendening is the only one among them with an organization already in place.
The timing of Hogan's announcement came as a surprise to most of the county's political establishment, and raised for the first time the prospect of a serious contest for county executive in the Republican primary. Possible GOP candidates, however, are not entirely convinced that he is out of the running.
"I'm really waiting for Mr. Hogan to see what he wants to do," said William Gullett, a Republican and former county executive who has been mentioned in Republican circles as a possible candidate. "I think it hasn't all shaken out yet. I'd want another 30 days before I'd make up my mind."
Longtime county observers point out that a mere statement of interest means little at this stage. "I know tens of people who want to run, but whether they will run is another story," said council member Gerard McDonough, who wants to run for reelection to the council next September. "It's one thing when you have a freebie, like the special election," he added. "But this time around, if you're an incumbent you'll have to give up your seat. I think people will drop out when they start to think about that."
Bogley said he wanted to talk with Glendening before making any specific public statements about his plans but, he acknowledged, "I've talked to some people about making the race and some people have talked to me."
Glendening's own plans to run for county executive were in the works well before Hogan's announcement. "I've got the committee together; I've got the funds. Chances are almost certain that I'll be running," he said last week.
Council member Sue V. Mills also may join the contest, depending on the outcome of the redistricting process now under way in the county.
"If the redistricting doesn't work out, the executive race certainly looks interesting," said Mills, who seems likely to be cut off from her traditional base of support when council district lines are redrawn. "I can certainly do as good a job as Mr. Glendening."
John Burcham, a former County Council member who now heads the county planning board, said he is actively considering entering the race. Burcham ran unsuccessfully three times for the House of Representatives seat recently captured by Steny Hoyer.
Although they publicly disclaim interest in the race, a number of other county political figures are rumored to be considering a run for the county executive post. This group includes former Hogan aide Ella Ennis; council member Ann Lombardi; cable baron and former county executive Winfield M. Kelly Jr.; Lawrence Hogan Jr., who serves as his father's executive assistant; Park and Planning Commissioner Charles A. Dukes and State's Attorney Arthur A. Marshall.
Bowie Mayor Audrey Scott, recently named to a post in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said she had been contacted about making the race, but she shrugged off the possibility.
Hogan Sr. has declined to express any preference about a successor before the Republican primary, citing his position as a national committeeman.
At least some people in the county think the field of contenders has not grown wide enough yet.
"Everybody who looks at the potential list of candidates just shakes their head in disgust," said state Del. Timothy F. Maloney, who says he has no interest in running for the job himself. "There's no one in the county who's happy with the prospects for county executive and County Council. It's Glendening, it's Sue Mills. The talent just isn't there. It's time for a new set of leaders."