County Councilwoman Barbara Samorajczyk says she will attempt to raise $1 million to run for Anne Arundel county executive in 2006, a race that she and her rivals think may cost at least that much to win.
Samorajczyk is one of three Democrats who have emerged as possible candidates to replace Janet S. Owens (D), who leaves the job next year because of term limits. The other Democrats are Sheriff George F. Johnson IV and county parks chief Dennis Callahan, a former Annapolis mayor. Republicans John R. Leopold, a state delegate, and Phil Bissett, a former state transit executive, also are likely candidates for county executive.
With the election still more than a year away -- candidates cannot yet declare their candidacy to the county -- the executive race has already been marked by drama. Bissett last month resigned from his job at the Maryland Transit Administration to avoid violating regulations against politics in the federal workplace. Annapolis lawyer Dirk Haire, a Republican, abandoned his short-lived candidacy in May, citing poll results that indicated he would have to raise substantial funds to match Leopold.
Leopold, already endorsed by Haire, announced last week he had gained the backing of two more Republicans: U.S. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest and Robert P. Duckworth, clerk of the circuit court in Anne Arundel. Leopold also has been endorsed by a number of prominent Republicans, including former congresswomen Marjorie S. Holt and Helen D. Bentley and former county executive Joseph W. Alton Jr.
"The endorsements span the ideological spectrum," Leopold said. "They're conservative as well as moderate."
Leopold is unquestionably the most visible candidate: He's stood on the curb at 30 different high-traffic spots around the county during the morning rush hour, holding a campaign sign that reads, simply, "Leopold," and waving at drivers, a tradition he brought to Maryland from Hawaii two decades ago.
"Some people have stopped and given me checks," he said.
The race is projected to be the most expensive in county history. The most recent campaign finance reports, as of January, show Bissett with a campaign balance of $61,254, and Leopold with $348,720. Both Bissett and Leopold have launched campaign Web sites. Among the Democrats, Johnson reported a campaign account balance of $130,038.
Samorajczyk, a 58-year-old Democrat from the Annapolis Roads community, said Monday she is hiring a campaign manager and "seriously considering a campaign for county executive." Advisers have told her the race could easily cost $1 million to $1.2 million.
"When I was first told that the race might cost this kind of money, I was aghast," she said. "But then I decided that I would not let the fact that it was this expensive deter me from moving forward."
Samorajczyk, whose name is pronounced sam-or-isaac, says a top campaign issue would be managing growth; she believes the county lacks an adequate plan to build schools, roads, firehouses and other infrastructure in pace with new homes over the coming years.
"The county needs to determine what we need, when we need it and how much it will cost," she said.