"The big question I'm being asked about here is Bruce Poole," said Boonsboro Mayor Charles F. "Skip" Kauffman Jr.
Kauffman is one of a handful of Democrats, including Hemphill, United Way of Washington County Executive Director Kathleen Hall and Randy G. Changuris, who have expressed an interest in filling the General Assembly vacancy that would be created if Poole is named to the bench by Gov. Parris N. Glendening. All four were at the picnic.
But Poole said the talk about his seat will remain premature until the appointment is actually made.
"I know the nature of these picnics is to speculate ... but I still think they are ahead of the ball," said Poole, whose legislative district covers the southern and eastern parts of the county.
Still, Democrats said the Poole situation is intriguing because it has consequences beyond filling the final year of the four-year term. The person who is eventually recommended for the seat by the central committee, and later appointed by Glendening, would have to quickly prepare for next year's elections.
"I've heard a couple Republicans say, `We're going to spend big money to go after that seat,'" Kauffman said.
There also was much talk about next year's County Commissioners election, in which dozens of people, both Republican and Democrat, have expressed an interest in running. Many have cited voter dissatisfaction with the present commissioners' handling of the water-sewer crisis and other issues.
"I hear it every place I go, and I hear it from both sides. I hear from Republicans who say, `We don't have representation,'" said County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers, who is running for re-election.
Next year's elections could be a tough battle for Democrats, who this year fell behind Republicans in the number of registered voters in the county for the first time in the 36-year history of the county Board of Elections Supervisors. The GOP holds a relatively slim 27,848-to-27,658 lead over county Democrats, according the most recent election board data.
"Certainly, we are the underdog at this point, which means, like Hertz, we have to try harder," Hemphill said.