Anne Arundel Sheriff George F. Johnson announced a Democratic bid for county executive, entering a crowded field to replace Janet S. Owens (D) in 2006. Owens is barred by term limits from running again.

Johnson, 52, who has been sheriff since 1994, says he expects to appeal to a broad swath of a county with a large contingent of voters engaged in homeland security, law enforcement and the military.

"Coming from a law enforcement background, I think the conservative voters will take a hard look at me," Johnson said. "I've had a lot of Republicans come to me and say, 'You're the only Democrat I'd vote for.' "

Johnson launched his campaign Oct. 6 at stops in Shady Side, Annapolis, Laurel and Glen Burnie. He stressed reducing class sizes in the public schools, protecting the Chesapeake Bay and managing growth as top priorities. He is married with three children and two grandchildren.

He is the latest unofficial candidate for the executive job. Republicans Greg Nourse, a 56-year-old assistant superintendent for business and management services in the county school system, and Tom Angelis, a 59-year-old Baltimore high school teacher, announced their intentions in August. State Del. John R. Leopold of Pasadena and 2002 GOP nominee Phil Bissett launched Republican campaigns earlier. Bissett recently unveiled a revamped campaign Web site, www.philbissett.com.

Other potential Democratic candidates include Barbara D. Samorajczyk, a County Council member, and Dennis Callahan, county parks chief and former Annapolis mayor.

Bidders See Market Value

The last effort to find a tenant for the city-owned Market House in Annapolis may have ended in a public relations disaster, but that hasn't deterred seven bidders -- five more than last time -- from vying to lease the market, a City Dock landmark.

By the deadline last week, proposals had been submitted by the New Market Group, headed by Tsunami Asian Grill owners Gavin Buckley and Jody Danek; H.B. Properties Management Co. of Edgewater, run by restaurateur Harvey Blonder; Siganos Management of Northfield, N.J.; Foundos Realty of Annapolis; O'Leary's Seafood of Annapolis; Caribbee Associates LLC of Ocean City; and Site Realty Group, a firm associated with Eastern Market in Washington.

The bidders did not include gourmet grocery chain Dean & DeLuca, which prevailed over Site Realty Group last time around, or Annapolis Seafood, to whom Dean & DeLuca eventually planned to transfer the market lease.

City spokeswoman Jan Hardesty speculated that the greater interest might be attributable to changes in the economy or to a perception last time around -- a view she said was off base -- that "Dean & DeLuca had it wired."

"People knew it was an open shot this time around," Hardesty said.

The deal with Dean & DeLuca unraveled over many months and, it is widely believed, at considerable political cost to the administration of Mayor Ellen O. Moyer (D). This time, the deal is to be consummated at breakneck speed: City staff members are expected to pick a winner and work out a lease to be submitted to the City Council next Wednesday. The city wants the market open by April 15.

After the city's recent bumpy track record in securing a tenant for Market House, above, seven bidders have submitted new proposals.