In an unusual move for Rockville politicians, the municipal campaign this fall is marked by a large number of independent candidates who are bypassing the nonpartisan local political organizations that in the past have often played an important role in city politics.
The rise of the independents follows the upset election two years ago of Mayor Steven Van Grack, who defeated candidates supported by the two main Rockville parties, the Alliance of Rockville Citizens (ARC) and the Independents for Rockville (IFR).
Much of the interest in the Nov. 3 election has been geared toward the volatile mayoral race between incumbent Van Grack and challenger Douglas Duncan, a three-term City Council member. But the campaign for the four council seats is offering voters a choice of candidates with a wide variety of political and professional experience.
The filing deadline in Rockville was Monday and among the seven council candidates are two incumbents, a former mayor, a former county department head and candidate for Montgomery County executive, a civic activist and vocal critic of the city's handling of issues affecting minorities, and a man who could become the second-youngest council member in Rockville history.
Five of the seven council candidates and both of the mayoral hopefuls are running as independents. Only first-term council member James Coyle, 44, and former Rockville mayor Viola Hovsepian, 64, are running under the auspices of a party, the local, nonpartisan ARC.
Nonetheless, the two party members have joined forces with independents Duncan and David Robbins -- the former Montgomery County recreation department director -- to form a slate called "Team for Rockville '87." They will pool campaign funds and some of their literature in an effort to aid each other.
The other candidates are: council member Stephen Abrams, a member of the Independents for Rockville Party who is running his campaign as an independent, Andrew W. Johnson, James Moone and Sima Osdoby.
Planning Commission Chairman Richard Arkin, who has been a member of IFR since 1980 and is currently treasurer of the Committee for Rockville, founded in 1985, called the political evolution a "necessary and inevitable sign of the times. The collapse of the parties has opened up the electoral process to people who could not get through the parties' nominating conventions."
This year neither the Alliance of Rockville Citizens nor Independents for Rockville held conventions. The parties may later come out with endorsements.
While Abrams and Coyle seek reelection and Duncan challenges the mayor, only council member Peter Hartogensis has announced that he will not run again.
Van Grack, 38, a Rockville attorney, rocked the city's political establishment in 1985, when he defeated incumbent Hovsepian and City Council member John Tyner II in a three-way race. An unusually flamboyant politician for Rockville, Van Grack perked up his campaign with a well-publicized race against Rockville Pike's rush-hour traffic.
Duncan, a services staff manager for AT&T, is considered to be a protege of former mayor John Freeland. But it was Duncan who first called for Freeland to resign because of a perceived conflict of interest that arose when the mayor took a job with developer Eisinger Kilbane and Associates.
Abrams, 44, has served on the council since 1980 and is generally considered Van Grack's chief ally there. Abrams works as a liaison for the African and Food for Peace Program at the State Department's Agency for International Development.
Coyle, 43, is a senior manager at the U.S. Fire Administration and before taking a council seat, served on the city's human rights commission.
Hovsepian, who was elected to the City Council in 1982 and 1984, was appointed mayor in 1984 when Freeland resigned midway through his term. Hovsepian is the wife of Dickran Hovsepian, who served as mayor from 1954-1958.
Robbins, 52, headed the county's Department of Recreation under former county executive Charles W. Gilchrist. Robbins ran unsuccessfully for the county executive post last year.
Robbins said that since his departure from county government he is "taking a career break . . . and there is still a strong reason to stay in public life." He said that he has been doing some consulting work for a Bethesda communications firm.
James Moone, 49, is widely known in Rockville for his advocacy of minority rights and is the president of the Association of Concerned Citizens of the Rockville Area. Moone, who serves on the city's Board of Appeals and made an unsuccessful council bid in 1972, works at the National Institutes of Health, where he is responsible for The campaign is marked by independent candidates.
Osdoby, 43, served on the city's Election Task Force that worked to end the city's dual registration system. She has also served on the city's Housing Policy Task Force and has helped organize a regional transportation study.
Johnson, 27, a two-term member of the city's Traffic and Transportation Commission, would be the second youngest council member in the city's history. Duncan was elected to the council at age 26. A contract negotiator with the Department of the Navy, Johnson has vowed to visit each of Rockville's 15,600 homes by election day. To date, he says, he has knocked on 5,800 doors.