Residents will also pick the person they want to represent them in the U.S. House of Representatives and one member of the U.S. Senate.
Still, it's easy to think that is far away. The primary election isn't until Sept. 15 and the general election isn't until Nov. 3. And those pondering running for elected office have until next July 6 to make their decision.
But the wheels are already turning. Several local incumbents in state government, including Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, and Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, have already held fund-raisers this year. Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, held a fund-raiser last year and has another planned for this month.
For state legislators, getting an early start is important because they are prohibited by law to raise campaign funds during the General Assembly's 90-day legislative session, which starts Jan. 14.
Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke was in Hagerstown last week, but he wasn't announcing a candidacy for governor or other statewide office, a move that has long been speculated by political observers.
Schmoke, speaking about economic development to a joint meeting of the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, joked about a possible bid for the State House.
"If I ever think about running for governor, I can assure you the Kiwanis and the Rotary will be the first to know," he quipped.
Schmoke spoke for less than half an hour, citing conciseness as a key to being an effective orator: "I'm from the school that believes a speech, in order to be immortal, need not be eternal."
Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, who is running for governor, was in Hagerstown last month as part of campaign blitz that covered every county in the state.
"People were warm and friendly, despite some cold morning and rainy afternoons at several of our stops. It was truly an enlightening experience," she said.
But Rehrmann faces an uphill battle because political observers generally consider Gov. Parris N. Glendening a heavy favorite to recapture the Democratic nomination, which would set up a likely rematch with Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey.
Sauerbrey, who narrowly lost to Glendening in 1994, doesn't have the governor's deep political pockets, but she recently announced she has raised $1 million this year for her campaign.
"For a Republican in Maryland to raise over $1 million a year before the election is significant," Sauerbrey said.
On the lighter side of the gubernatorial race is a new "independent" campaign committee, called simply "Dump Parris." No further explanation is needed.
The committee has sent out press releases with a cartoon drawing that depicts Glendening in a Dumpster, while launching a campaign to make the governor's mansion a "Glendening-free zone" after next year's election.
"Our hard-hitting campaign may be just the thing to make Parris a one-term wonder. ... In fact, we already wonder if he really won the last election," said committee chairman John Marion.
- Guy Fletcher