"I enjoy being in the General Assembly, but this is a job that came available at a time I really didn't expect it to," Poole said.
Poole, who was still preparing his application Friday, was reluctant to talk specifically about his motivations for seeking the judgeship and leaving the legislature, saying it would be "premature" to discuss at this time.
Over the years Poole's name has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, and the possibility of him moving out of politics would be a loss, Democratic leaders said.
"From a party standpoint, Bruce has been a very visible Democrat and certainly has the ability to progress to higher elective status," said county Democratic Committee Chairman Richard L. Hemphill.
But he added: "Being a Circuit Court judge is still no small potatoes."
The Central Committee would nominate a candidate to replace Poole if he were to get the judgeship appointment from Gov. Parris N. Glendening. Glendening then would have final approval in appointing a successor to serve the final year of Poole's four-year legislative term.
Hemphill and three other local people - Boonsboro Mayor Charles F. "Skip" Kauffman Jr., United Way of Washington County Executive Director Kathleen Hall and former House of Delegates candidate Randy G. Changuris - already have publicly expressed interest in Poole's seat.
For years Poole was considered a rising star in state political circles, having first gained notice in 1986 when he upset then-Del. Paul Muldowney in the Democratic primary. Poole won the general election that year, and began a relatively rapid rise through the House hierarchy, culminating in 1990 when, at the age of 31, he became the youngest majority leader in the history of the House of Delegates.
But a power struggle led to his ouster as majority leader in 1993. Meanwhile, the Hagerstown law firm he was a partner in dissolved in a legal dispute. He has since started a downtown practice with his father.
In 1994, Poole won his second re-election by 76 votes - the second-smallest margin of victory in the state legislature that year.
Since that election, Poole positioned himself as something of a House rebel, taking on several causes - like his opposition to public funding for two professional football stadiums on the state - that placed him against Glendening and some legislative leaders.
If he were to be appointed to the bench, Poole would see his state salary more than triple, from $29,700 to $96,500. But Poole said money is not a factor in his decision, since there is really "not much difference" between judicial pay and his current income combined with his law practice.
In addition to Poole, county State's Attorney M. Kenneth Long Jr. is also considered a candidate for the judgeship because he had previously applied for other judicial vacancies. The Administrative Office of the Courts will not release the names of other applicants until after Tuesday's deadline.
The candidates will be reviewed by the Judicial Nominating Commission, which next meets Sept. 10. The panel will then send a list of nominees to Glendening, who will make the final selection.