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Moving the 2006 primary would not be a good idea

July 19, 2005

Some of Maryland's top Democrats, facing intra-party rivalries and Republican candidates who have no foes in their own party, want to change the state's primary from September to June in 2006.

It might have been a good idea had it been done a year ago. But it's mighty late in the game to shift the primary now.

We say that because of the damage it could do to local races. If you're considering your first run for local office, you would have to quickly decide whether to take a chance against incumbents who are better known and probably better funded as well.

Washington County is facing a host of problems that, if not properly handled, could adversely affect the county for decades to come. Incumbents at every level need to be challenged to justify their ideas, or lack of same. But moving up the primary now will tend to discourage challengers.

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On the other hand, we would like to see the change made for the 2010 election. As top Democrats point out, the present schedule leaves only five weeks between the September primary and the November election.

We believe that in a longer campaign, the contenders would be less likely to engage in the sort of mudslinging attacks that leave voters confused rather than enlightened about what each candidate believes.

A long post-primary period would also allow the contenders to appear at more candidate forums, where the unscripted nature of the events gives voters a clearer picture of their future leaders, as opposed to the view provided by slick TV ads.

Another reason the Democrats should abandon this idea for 2006 is that citizens might see it as an attempt to change the rules of the game in their favor, due to special circumstances.

Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich isn't expected to have a primary opponent, while at least two Democrats will run in their primary.

Lt. Gov. Michael Steele is expected to run unopposed for the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, while at least three Democrats are expected to contend in that primary.

Making this change now would make the Democrats look as if their candidates aren't good enough and need an extra advantage.

The smart candidates will speak up now and say they're not afraid of competition and favor keeping the primary as it is now.

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