ANNAPOLIS, JUNE 20 -- Former Annapolis mayor Dennis M. Callahan, who suffered a stinging political defeat last September in a primary reelection bid, announced today that he would seek the Democratic nomination for Anne Arundel county executive.

Surrounded by members of a committee he established to evaluate his chances of making a political comeback through his first countywide campaign, Callahan, 48, said he was confident that voters far away from the city he governed for four years would be receptive to his message.

"During the last six months I've listened and I've learned. I've listened to people in Linthicum and Glen Burnie. I've listened to people in Severna Park and Arnold," he said. "The people of Anne Arundel County want a county executive who has the strength, leadership and ability to protect our quality of life."

Callahan is the fourth Democrat to declare his candidacy for the seat being vacated by James Lighthizer, who is forbidden by law to seek a third term. County Council members Michael F. Gilligan and Theodore J. Sophocleus and former Maryland delegate Patricia Aiken have also entered the race. One Republican is in the race so far, former House of Delegates minority leader Robert R. Neall.

Callahan lost his race in Annapolis, the county's largest city, by more than 200 votes. Success this time depends on whether he can take advantage of his high name recognition to make up that deficit in the rest of the county.

Callahan declined to state what qualities separate him from the other candidates aside from his business experience as the owner of a chain of formal wear stores. He said he prefers to run a "positive, issues-oriented campaign" that will focus on residents' concerns about high property taxes, growth and drug abuse. He offered few specifics for addressing those problems, but indicated they would be forthcoming soon.

As mayor, Callahan developed a reputation as an aggressive politician with a slick, media-savvy style who never hesitated to embarass his opponents in public. Some observers credited voters' dissatisfaction with his confrontational approach to his defeat last fall by Alfred A. Hopkins, an alderman.

Today, Callahan said that style will not be evident in this campaign.

"The results of that election occured not because of a lack of hard work, but because of a very brash, politically naive individual who had the propensity to shoot from the lip. I'll take that as a positive in this election, learn from it and move on," he said.