With the Defense Department gathering information before recommending military base closures and restructuring next spring, a broad coalition in St. Mary's County continues to work to support the Patuxent River Naval Air Station and find ways to improve things such as roads, housing and schools.

On Monday, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) met with the Patuxent Partnership (a consortium of mostly technology companies, federal facilities and academic institutions), the Southern Maryland Navy Alliance and the St. Mary's County Chamber of Commerce to talk about the upcoming round of base closures and tour a new facility at Pax River.

On Tuesday, the county commissioners approved a list of five priorities: education, transportation, housing, Lexington Park revitalization and quality of life -- a broad category that commits officials to supporting economic growth and diversity even as they find ways to preserve the area's rural character and to increasing cultural opportunities.

That's a shorter list than the seven priorities they identified last summer. Since then, leaders have received funding to demolish the dilapidated Lexington Manor apartments next to the base, improved Route 235 (which runs north-south alongside Pax River), and signed a five-year agreement with schools to increase spending and accountability.

"This is a very, very important time for St. Mary's County," said Thomas F. McKay (R-At Large), president of the Board of County Commissioners. "We're in good shape, we've done our homework, we've done the things we're supposed to do. . . . This really gives us a roadmap again, to ensure that St. Mary's County is a great place for the Navy to do business."

Calvert GOP Builds a Lead

The Republican Party is slowly increasing its majority in Calvert County.

The GOP first edged ahead of the Democrats in November -- by a margin of fewer than a dozen registered voters. Now, the party's lead has jumped to almost 200.

As of Monday, 19,874 Republican and 19,676 Democrats were registered as voters in the county, said Mary DePelteau, a Calvert County election official.

The numbers are the latest sign of growing Republican power in a county that was a Democratic stronghold for decades.

"We were used to having one Republican for every four Democrats," said Barbara A. Burton, vice chairman of the Calvert County Republican Central Committee. "But conservative Democrats feel their party has left them."

Local Republicans are working hard to boost their majority in the county. Burton said party officials will continue to set up voter registration booths at county events and send mailings to residents.

Burton said she hopes the party's success in Calvert will inspire Republicans in other counties around the state. Although Democrats outnumber Republicans by almost 2-to-1 in Maryland, Burton said she believes President Bush can carry the state in November.

"All we have to do is get out there and try harder," she said.

Game Traffic Should Ease

Weekend drivers don't need to worry about Huntingtown High School football games anymore this year, school officials said.

The first two games at the brand-new school, which overlooks Route 4, caused traffic nightmares along the county's major road, raising concern that every football matchup would lead to mass congestion.

But Calvert County public schools officials said the gridlock problem is over for this year, thanks to Huntingtown's football schedule.

School Board President Gail M. Hoerauf-Bennett said the school's first two games were particularly well attended because Huntingtown was playing in-county rivals Patuxent and Northern.

For the rest of the season, however, Huntingtown does not face another county school at home. "We're not really anticipating a problem for future games," Hoerauf-Bennett said.

And what about next year?

During future Huntingtown home games against fellow county schools, Hoerauf-Bennett said the county would likely offer satellite parking to fans and then bus them to the game.

Solomons' Fete Is Sunday

Sunday is the annual Calvert County Waterman's Day Festival in Solomons.

The event is scheduled from noon to 4 p.m. at the Waterman's Wharf in Solomons. Admission is free.

There will be a boat docking contest, food and beverages, a crab soup cook-off, men's and women's anchor toss contests, raffles and a Maryland seafood display.

Music will be provided by Deanna Dove and the Island Band.

Calvert Candidates Forum

Candidates for the Calvert County Board of Education will have a chance to state their views Oct. 27 at a public candidates' organized by the League of Women Voters of Calvert County.

The forum is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at Calvert Pines Senior Center in Prince Frederick.

Three of the five seats on the board are at stake in the Nov. 2 election.

The 1st District candidates are Jeffrey Borgholthaus of Lusby and Frank T. Parish of Dowell. Incumbent Robert L. Gray of Huntingtown is unopposed for the 2nd District seat. In the 3rd District, incumbent Mary Garvey of Owings is being challenged by James L. Parent of Chesapeake Beach. All five have accepted the League's invitation to participate in the forum.

St. Mary's Hopefuls Speak

The League of Women Voters of St. Mary's County is sponsoring a Board of Education candidates' forum beginning at 7 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Lexington Park library.

The forum will be divided into two sessions, both moderated by a league member. Candidates for the at-large position will address issues from 7 to 7:45 p.m., and candidates for the 2nd District position will present their views from 8 to 8:45 p.m. County residents will be able to meet the candidates in the library's lobby from 6:15 to 7 p.m.

Three of the five seats on the school board are on the Nov. 2 ballot. Pat Woodburn of Compton and Gary Kessler of Lexington Park are seeking the at-large seat on the school board. Cathy Allen of Hollywood, the board chairman, and Clare Whitbeck of Breton Bay are competing for the District 2 seat. Incumbent Mary M. Washington is unopposed by the District 4 seat.

Each candidate will have the opportunity to give a one-minute introduction. Three or four questions prepared by league members will be asked, followed by questions from the audience that have been reviewed by two League members. Candidates will have up to two minutes to answer each question. At the end of each session, candidates will have one minute to present a closing statement.