With the election still 14 months away, the field of unofficial candidates for county executive has grown to four. And that's just counting Republicans.
The two newest candidates are educators: Greg Nourse, 56, is assistant superintendent for business and management services in Anne Arundel public schools, and Tom Angelis, 59, is a Baltimore high school teacher. Both announced their unofficial candidacies last month. No one has formally registered as a candidate with the county.
They join two other Republicans, state Del. John R. Leopold of Pasadena and 2002 GOP nominee Phil Bissett, on one of the longest campaign trails Anne Arundel has seen. Among the possible Democratic candidates: Barbara Samorajczyk, a County Council member; George F. Johnson IV, the sheriff; and Dennis Callahan, county parks chief and former Annapolis mayor.
This campaign trail is so long, in fact, that Angelis has actually announced his candidacy twice in three years. The former county parks and recreation director first stepped forward in an August 2003 news conference at a parochial school in Edgewater.
Angelis wasn't even the first politician to mobilize a campaign to replace Janet S. Owens when she departs under term limits next year. Leopold started campaigning and launched a Web site (www.johnleopold.com) in spring 2003, more than three years ahead of election day.
The one truly new name is Nourse, a veteran public administrator who oversees 2,700 employees and handles a $160 million operating budget and a capital program of roughly $600 million for Anne Arundel schools. Though perhaps the least known of the four, Nourse says he has the best resume.
"I think I've got the education, the background, the experience and the qualifications to do the best job," said Nourse, who lives in Glen Burnie and is married with a son, a stepson and a daughter. He has two grandchildren in Crofton schools.
Nourse, a native of South Buffalo, N.Y., earned a master's degree in public administration at the University of Baltimore and started with the county in 1980 as a recreation and parks supervisor, moving to the county budget office five years later. He joined the school system in 1995 as finance director and rose through the ranks. He is considered one of the more seasoned deputies under Superintendent Eric J. Smith.
Angelis was defeated by Bissett in the 2002 Republican primary. His campaign focused partly on improving accountability for funds provided to the school system and striving for better communication with the superintendent of schools.
"I felt very well about how I did" in the 2002 race, Angelis said in an interview early in this campaign. He couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.
Leopold, a state legislator on and off since 1983, has campaigned for the executive job for more than two years. He said he has raised $363,000 in a race that could be the most expensive in county history. He has been endorsed by several prominent Republicans, including former Reps. Marjorie S. Holt and Helen Delich Bentley, current Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest and Circuit Court Clerk Robert P. Duckworth.
Leopold has stood at more than 30 spots around the county in the morning commuter rush, holding a campaign sign and waving at drivers.
"There's no substitute for personal contact, eyeball to eyeball," he said.
Bissett, who came close to unseating Owens in 2002, had a rocky start to his 2006 campaign. He resigned his job as director of the MARC commuter rail and bus division in May to meet the requirements of the federal Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from seeking partisan office. Bissett worked in a federally subsidized program.
As for Owens, the current county executive recently launched a Web site of her own, www.janetowens.info, presumably in preparation for launching her next campaign. She recently ruled out a Senate run but has expressed interest in Maryland's 3rd District seat in the U.S. House, which Benjamin L. Cardin (D) is vacating to run for the Senate.