If both Edward T. Conroy and Leo Green did not want to be the state senator from the eastern area of Prince George's County that makes up the 24th Legislative District, they might be friends and political allies.
Both men favor tax relief for property owners. Both favor open government and believe in sunshine legislation designed to open up government meetings. Both support a strong ethics code for Maryland.
But Green wants Conroy's senate seat, and their contest has become a localized test of the Prince George's Democratic organization - which supports Conroy - and the country's independent Democrats - who support Green.
Both have had success in their own way. As the senator from the 24th, Controy is a powerful man in the Prince George's county delegation in Annapolis. In winning election to the Maryland House four years ago, Green received more votes than any other delegate candidate in the 24th even though he ran as an independent.
"People like Ed are completely dominated by the county's political machine," Green said. "It's that kind of politics that have caused people in Maryland to lose confidence in government. That fact underlines all the issues, the loss of confidence among the people in this state.
Bosh, says Conroy. "Leo Green goes around saying he was responsible for this bill and that bill. He says I killed his bills in the senate. It just isn't true. Most of his bills died in the house. They never got to the senate."
Green counters by saying that it is the machine "which has shackled the legislators," and has killed many of his bills. "The biggest difference between us is that Ed believes in the old way of running a government. I believe in the new way."
Conroy, 49, has a different description of what Green calls, "The old way."
"My way is to work with my colleagues, to gain their respect and to get my bills passed," Conroy said. "I got 29 bills that I sponsored passed in the last year. Leo can't say that."
Green, a former mayor of Bowie, is as much a symbol for the outsiders in the 24th - which includes Bowie, Greenbelt and Upper Marlboro - as Conroy is for insiders. He has never run with the party organization, refused to run on the party ticket for delegate this year and says he believes the days of the all-powerful organization are nearing an end.
Thus, the two men, ideologically similar, are locked in a battle of personalities and political philosophies.
Their race has shoved the relatively tame races for House of Delegates into the background. There, only Gerard F. Devlin is seeking reelection. Devlin, 45, is running on the Democratic organization ticket with Charles J. Ryan, appointed this spring to the seat vacated by David G. Ross who left office to accept a judgeship, and F. Anthony McCarthy, a former assistant state's attorney taking his first stab at politics.
Opposing that trio are Richard R. Pilski, eight-term Mayor of Greenbelt, who is trying to duplicate Green's trick of going from Mayor to the House of Delegates, and Joan Pitkin, long time Bowie activist.
On the Republican side there are no primary races since there are no senate candidates and only three candidates for the house. They are Bowie Mayor Audrey E. Scott, and political newcomers Alan K. Virta and Donald F. McBride.
The Delegate race is being waged on the same battleground as the senate race, but at a much lower pitch. There is no name calling, no long-standing rivalry. In fact, Pitkin worked on Devlin's campaign for a while before deciding to run herself.
"I think it's fair to say this has been a fairly low-key race," Devlin said. "We feel like we're very well organized."
Most insiders agree that Devlin, perhaps more than any other candidate in the district, can afford to be low key. He is considered likely to win reelection.
Ryan, 41, a teacher at Prince George's Community College, and McCarthy, 35, both have less exposure and are therefore more vulnerable.
"I think the thing you have to remember is that Gerry Devlin is really the only incumbent in this race," Pilski said. "Everyone else is more or less starting even. Ryan hasn't even cast a vote in the house yet, just like the rest of us."
Pilski, mayor of a municipality for 16 years, is trying to portray himself as the man best equipped to represent the 24th.
The three cities of Bowie, Greenbelt and Upper Marlboro make up the major population centers in the district. Between the cities are large stretches of farm and park land. Thus, in a district dominated by city dwellers, there is still a great deal of open space. As a result the district population is growing, developing at a fairly rapid pace.
As in all districts throughout the state, especially those with lots of homeowners - like the 24th - the big issue is property taxes. The insiders say the tax relief program passed by the legislature this year was a step in the right direction. Outsiders call the program negligible in its practical effect.
If the delegate race does not figure to go beyond the two central issues - organization vs. independents and property taxes - the Green-Conroy race figures to continue to be a name-calling, all-out war.
"Organization dominance is especially bad in this particular district," Green said. "People like Ed are completely dominated by the machine.It's that kind of politics that have caused people in Maryland to lose confidence in government. That fact underlines all the issues, the loss of confidence among the people in this state.
"I'm not controlled by the machine," Green said. "I'm not into political cronyism. I want to get into the senate because I can be more effective there.
"My candidacy gives the people a clear choice between the old and the new. We don't have any endorsements but we're working very hard. I'm extremely encouraged."
Conroy claims that given that clear choice, people are going to vote for him "in a landslide. Out door-knocking, I'm getting a clear impression that people are being polite to Leo but they're going to vote for me," Conroy said.
The two men agree on one thing. Both say they are "running on a record." Conroy's record is longer but on major issues the two men - except on capital punishment, for which Conroy voted - have tended to vote alike.
"We vote alike on about 90 percent of the issues," Conroy said. "We've voted differently on lots of bills," Green countered. "Let's look at the record . . ."
And the battle goes on.