Only 14 Republican candidates in Prince George's County have even attempted to break the Democrats' stranglehold on the county's 28 legislative seats in Annapolis this year.
In 1974 and 1978, county Republicans presented an almost complete slate for the county's legislative districts. This year, when 73 Democrats were running, party leaders concede that they did not even try. In fact, there was only one Republican primary fight -- in Laurel's District 13B delegate race.
"There was a lot of talk that Republicans might not do so well this year," said county Republican stalwart John Burcham. "It may have discouraged some people. There're certainly not too many winnable races out there. I think we have to go back and do some basic self analysis," he said.
In contrast, 73 Democrats stood for the county's seven Senate and 21 House of Delegate seats. A total of 25 incumbent county Democrats were nominated; the other three nominees were replacements on the dominant "Democratic Alliance" ticket.
With Democrats outnumbering Republican voters by 3-to-1 in Prince George's, county Democrats believe they can be returned to Annapolis with nary a scratch this year.
The only county race not dominated by Democratic incumbents is in District 13B, which is partially in Howard County. Laurel Republicans Donald Messenger, a 46-year-old lawyer, and Julia Brown, 48, who runs her own Montessori schools, face Democratic newcomers William C. Bevan, 54, of Jessup, a retired junior high school principal who now sells real estate, and Susan Buswell, 46, of Elkridge, a member of the Howard County school board.
The candidates' major stands reflect a split in county priorities: Buswell stresses the need for increased state aid to education, while Republicans Messenger and Brown say that spending for law enforcement should be increased. Messenger also favors stricter handgun controls.
In Districts 21 and 22, which span the northeastern third of the county and include Laurel, College Park, Hyattsville, Riverdale, New Carrollton and Bladensburg, the eight incumbent Democrats are unopposed. Three of the eight incumbents ran independently of the Democratic Alliance ticket.
In District 23 in Bowie, Republican state senate candidate Burton W. Oliver, 48, heads what appears to be the strongest group of GOP candidates. Oliver, who heads the county's Department of Program Planning and Economic Development and is an appointee of County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan, is focusing his campaign on increasing state aid to medium and small businesses under a program that would be similar to the Agriculture Extension Service.
Oliver's opponent, former Bowie mayor Leo E. Green, 50, was chosen by the Democratic organization to run for the the late Edward Conroy's seat. Green, who twice had run against Conroy for the Senate, would like to put the state on a "pay-as-you-go" financial basis to reduce the high cost of interest on state bond issues. Both men favor mandatory sentencing laws for felony crimes, but Oliver would like to see youthful felony suspects tried in adult courts.
Incumbent Democratic delegates Gerard F. Devlin, 49, of Upper Marlboro, Charles Ryan, 45, of Bowie, and Joan Pitkin, 50, of Bowie, face Republicans Donald Bruce McBride, 58, of Seabrook, and Sharon E. Metcalfe, a 45-year-old registered nurse from Bowie. Metcalfe says she is "pro-family" and against abortion except in extreme emergencies.
McBride, a former government management analyst, says that he is running for the legislature so he can help reduce government spending by using better management techniques.
There are no Republican challengers in the predominantly black 24th District, where incumbents Tommie Broadwater, 40, of Glenarden, Sylvania Woods, 28, of Glenarden, Frank Santangelo, 63, of Landover, and Nathaniel Exum, 42, of Seat Pleasant, will be returned to Annapolis.
In the 25th District, which stretches from Suitland to Largo across the center of the county, Republican James Whitehead, 25, of District Heights is challenging incumbent Democrat B.W. Mike Donovan, 62, of District Heights for the Senate seat. Whitehead is an aide to Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), who along with conservative GOP Rep. Marjorie Holt (4th District of Maryland) appeared at a recent Whitehead fund-raiser.
County and state Republicans hope that Whitehead, who is black, will help improve their historically poor showing among black voters. Whitehead touts the "enterprise zone" concept, a strategy most closely associated with Kemp, as a means for creating jobs and developing small businesses.
Donovan, who is white, survived a tough primary fight against four challengers, three of whom were black, in a district that is more than 60 percent black. Two of his former challengers are backing the write-in campaign of Alvin Thornton, 33, an aide to Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.). Thornton says that Donovan, who opposed voting rights for the District of Columbia, does not represent the interests of black voters in the district.
Republican Joseph A. Finlayson Jr., 40, an Upper Marlboro attorney, is running for a 25th District delegate seat against Democratic incumbents Lorraine M. Sheehan, 45, of Largo, Dennis Donaldson, 44, of District Heights, and newcomer Albert R. Wynn, 31, of Upper Marlboro.
In the 26th District Senate race, incumbent Democrat Frank Komenda, 47, of Temple Hills, is challenged by Republican George L. Price, a retired Army colonel from Oxon Hill who gives his age as "over 60."
Price says that the criminal justice system must protect the citizens and not criminals and that he is opposed to construction of a maximum security facility for juveniles. He would also reduce the 51 percent share of the state budget that goes to education and transportation.
Three Republicans are challenging the Komenda slate of Christine Jones, 52, of Hillcrest Heights, Marian L. Patterson, 56, of Temple Hills, and Frederick C. Rummage, 51, of Camp Springs, for the three delegate seats in the 26th. The GOP candidates are: Carroll James Cummings, 60, of Oxon Hill, a former career federal employe with a law degree; Joseph C Ferrusi, 52, of Oxon Hill, and Lenard Clarke, of Oxon Hill.
In the 27th District in rural southern Prince George's, only one Republican is challenging the leadership of Senate delegation chairman Thomas V. "Mike" Miller, 39, of Clinton, and delegates John Wolfgang, 55, of Fort Washington, Joseph Vallario Jr., 45, of Upper Marlboro, and William R. McCaffrey, 48, of Brandywine.
Republican Sheldon E. Sacks, 40, a financial planner from Fort Washington, is running for a delegate seat. Among other things, Sacks would like to use closed county schools as rehabilitation facilities for juvenile offenders to relieve the pressure on state prisons.