Southern Maryland chose school board members, voted to retain the way Calvert County is governed and gave the longtime Chesapeake Beach mayor a tough path to reelection.

In Chesapeake Beach, Mayor Gerald W. Donovan narrowly defeated his first challenger since 1988: Joseph Wayne Johnson, 61, a retired program analyst who was active in Prince George's County affairs before moving to the Calvert County town.

Donovan, 56, whose father and grandfather were also mayors of Chesapeake Beach, started on the Town Council in 1976 and has been mayor since 1983.

Voters rejected code home rule in Calvert by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio.

Some said they were suspicious of the proposed change in the form of local government, wondering if it could lead to bigger bureaucracy or higher taxes. "I just don't trust it," Margaret Burch, 46, of Prince Frederick said yesterday. "I'm going to vote to keep it like it is."

For the Board of Education in Calvert, incumbent Mary Garvey and newcomer Frank Theodore Parish each beat their opponent by a few points.

Parish laughed with delight when told he had won; his housemate said she needed to open some champagne. "I didn't expect to win the primary," he said, "and I certainly didn't expect to win this."

He said he had done very little campaigning -- "I didn't spend 10 cents on anything; I did not buy one sign" -- but that voters must have agreed with the opinions he expressed about the importance of the separation of church and state in schools and more education funding.

In St. Mary's County, incumbent Cathy Allen and newcomer Gary Kessler won Board of Education seats.

Kessler, enjoying his victory at the Roost bar and restaurant in Lexington Park with friends and family, said he thought voters recognized that he ran a positive campaign and knew the issues facing schools.

Allen met with friends at the Old Breton Inn in Leonardtown after final results showed her with more than two-thirds of the vote. "I think the community believed in what this board has been doing and what I specifically have been doing," she said, "and I appreciate that very much."

Calvert school board candidates had talked about how to pay for the growing county's education needs and how to manage mandatory testing, and they debated issues of morality and religion in the classroom.

Jeffrey D. Borgholthaus, 47, a cryptologic engineer from Lusby, said he worried that rapid growth in the county, tight budgets and changing values have threatened the schools.

His opponent for the District 1 seat, Parish, 75, of Dowell, is retired from a public school system in Florida. Parish told voters that the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act are the most urgent issue facing the schools and criticized Borgholthaus for trying to "bring God back into the classroom."

In District 3, Garvey faced James Louis Parent, 64, a retired Calvert County high school principal. Garvey, 51, a medical technologist from Owings, has served on the board since 1996. She said growth is the biggest challenge for the once-rural county, and the schools need more money.

Parent, 64, of Chesapeake Beach said smaller class sizes are needed and suggested that the Board of Education should have the power to levy taxes for schools.

Robert L. Gray, 49, of Huntingtown ran unopposed for a third term in the District 2 seat.

The Calvert County ballot question asked voters to increase county commissioners' power by adopting code home rule, a form of government that would allow local leaders to borrow money and make other decisions without approval from the General Assembly. Supporters said it would allow commissioners to govern more efficiently, but opponents warned that it would take away checks and balances over local officials.

In St. Mary's County, the school board races were defined more by personality than by issues.

Clare Whitbeck, 64, known for asking tough questions of local leaders, challenged Allen, the school board chairman, for the District 2 seat.

Allen, 48, of Hollywood emphasized the need for new schools and high standards for students.

Pat Woodburn, 70, of St. Clement Shores, who calls herself "a senior citizen with old-time values," said parents would feel comfortable with her because she knows so many local families. Her opponent for the at-large seat, Kessler, 43, of Lexington Park pointed to his experience managing budgets for programs in the Naval Air Systems Command and his time volunteering in schools.

Incumbent Mary M. Washington, 51, of Lexington Park ran unopposed in District 4.

Staff writers Joshua Partlow and Amit R. Paley contributed to this report.