The campaign signs were everywhere. Accusations of conflicts of interest and cronyism were freely hurled. Political fliers landed in mailboxes.
The start of campaigning for Election Day 2006?
Hardly. It was the run-up to Saturday's election for president of the property owners association of Chesapeake Ranch Estates, the largest private community in Calvert County.
When the acrimonious campaign was over, newcomer Edward S. Harvey Jr. defeated three-term incumbent John A. Eney by a vote of 486 to 165.
"This in fact was an embarrassingly dirty political campaign and one of the most controversial political campaigns in the history of Chesapeake Ranch Estates," Eney said.
Harvey supporters wrote letters to local newspapers detailing their grievances against Eney: He didn't consult with others. He was too quick to file lawsuits. He didn't properly follow Robert's Rules of Order. He unwisely tossed a small community collection of books because he thought they were moldy.
"He didn't really get consensus before doing things," said Harvey, 66, a retired airline pilot who moved to Chesapeake Ranch Estates three years ago.
In an interview after the election, Eney denied the allegations and accused Harvey's supporters of spouting "misinformation and half-truths." But he said he chose not to campaign at all because he wanted to let his record speak for itself.
Harvey took a different approach. He created more than 100 signs with blue-on-white lettering that read "Elect ED HARVEY." Some were even placed outside the Ranch Estates, along Route 765. Then there were the T-shirts and the campaign appearances and the communitywide mailing that cost more than $500.
Harvey said he would consider incorporating the community into Calvert's third official town to recoup taxes that are paid to the local government but not used on the private community's roads.
As the leader of the association's nine-member board of directors, which oversees an annual budget of $1.9 million, Harvey said his focus will be on uniting the 4,000-home community.
"I want to see if we can come to some common ideas or common solutions," he said. "So we can stop looking like a bunch of people who are always fighting each other."