Fifteen smiling politicians filed into the Jewish Community Center in Rockville yesterday and promised the crowd everything from low-cost housing, mobile medical clinics and better bus service to more recreational activities for the elderly.
It was, after all, a forum for senior citizens and more importantly, there are only 45 days left until the primary election for the seven seats on the Montgomery County Council. So the crowd of 12 Democrats, seven Republicans and one independent are trudging from Bethesda to Damascus to woo voters during a campaign that has focused primarily on the highly publicized Senate, gubernatorial and county executive's races.
"I'm one of you," said William E. Hanna Jr., 65, County Council president who is running for reelection as a Democrat. "Remember me on Sept. 9 -- I'm the fellow with the crutch. I'm going to see the doctor, and you know how tough it is to get a doctor's appointment." Hanna recently broke his leg in a fall.
The race among some Democrats has been especially bitter because of the creation of a slate of seven council candidates, which includes several well-known incumbents. Although the slate is not officially endorsed by the county's Democratic Party, it gives new candidates exposure and adds legitimacy to their campaigns, proponents say. The slate includes candidates for offices ranging from sheriff to state senator.
Although five council members are elected in separate residential districts, all of the council candidates run at large in the 505-square-mile county.
"It's not fair for a gang of 56 -- mostly incumbents -- to run together," said Alfred Muller, a Friendship Heights Democrat who is not on the slate. "Think how much harder it is to run on your own two feet on your own credentials."
One candidate seemed slightly embarrassed about running on the ticket. "I don't believe in slates," said incumbent Rose Crenca to the crowd of about 100 senior citizens. "But I joined because I had no choice. I didn't want an opponent. If I didn't join, the slate would choose another Democrat to run against me in my district."
Along with Muller, three other Democratic candidates are not on the ticket: Allan S. Cohen and Gail Ewing, both of Potomac, and Ilene Sinsky Solomon of Bethesda. Jay Bernstein, chairman of the county Democratic Central Committee, said he was dropping out of the race. However, his name will still be on the ballot.
The incumbents on the slate are Hanna of Rockville, Neal Potter of Chevy Chase, Michael L. Gudis of Burtonsville and Crenca of Silver Spring.
Joining the incumbents are newcomers Bruce Adams, of Bethesda, Isiah (Ike) Leggett of Burtonsville and Michael L. Subin of Gaithersburg.
All of the Republican council candidates are unopposed in the primary. They are Betty Ann Krahnke and Jonathan K. Powell, both of Chevy Chase, Robert B. Miller of Kensington, Carol F. Wallace of Colesville, William J. Skinner and George E. Sauer, both of Potomac, and Terry Monroe of Wheaton.
Gary D. Lloyd, an independent candidate from Gaithersburg, is running at large.