by Bryan P. Sears
The seat currently held by Sen. Andy Harris will be open if the three-term incumbent is elected to Congress in November.
Last month, Harris unseated nine-term incumbent Rep. Wayne Gilchrest in the Republican primary for the 1st Congressional District.
Five Republicans -- former Del. Ken Holt, Dels. J.B. Jennings and Pat McDonough, former Del. Al Redmer and Kathy Szeliga -- said they are interested in replacing Harris in the Senate if his seat is vacated.
But most prospective candidates cautioned that it is too early for such talk.
"Right now, it's all hands on deck," said Szeliga, the Perry Hall resident who is Harris' chief of staff in Annapolis. "Anyone who thinks they want to replace (Harris) should be working hard to help him get elected to Congress."
"I'll certainly look at (running) at the appropriate time, but this is not the appropriate time," Redmer said.
The former delegate, who represented Perry Hall, now lives with his wife in their waterfront home in Middle River, which is in the 7th District.
Redmer said he would use his connections on the Eastern Shore, where he has a business, to help Harris win his congressional race.
Nearly two-thirds of the 7th District is in Baltimore County, stretching from Jacksonville and Cockeysville to Perry Hall and Middle River. The remaining third of the district is in western Harford County.
In the event that the seat is vacated, members of the Republican central committees from both counties will have a hand in naming a replacement. They will have 30 days to send their selection to the governor, whose approval is a formality.
Chris Cavey, chairman of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, said he is telling committee members "to keep their powder dry" and not commit to any one potential candidate just yet.
But that isn't stopping one potential candidate from starting his lobbying effort early.
McDonough, who is in his second term as a Republican legislator and served one term as a Democrat, said he is sending a letter to all of the members of both the two counties' central committees. He described the letter as a biographical and promotional piece.
A draft shown to a reporter was about eight pages long. "It's going to be a lot longer," McDonough said. "I like to write."
The Republican who fills Harris' state Senate seat will likely face a stiff challenge from the Democratic Party in 2010.
Democratic Councilman Vince Gardina could be one of those challengers.
Gardina was briefly in the race for state Senate in 2002. He dropped out of that race and ran for re-election to his council seat after the state Court of Appeals threw out Gov. Parris Glendening's redistricting plan and the judges redrew the maps themselves.
Gardina has more than $148,000 on hand, according to campaign finance report filed in January. The councilman, who also is rumored to be interested in running for county executive, said he is keeping his options open.
"I don't know if I want to establish a preference before I determine whether or not I'm running for anything," said Gardina, who represents the 5th district including Perry Hall, Carney and Towson.
E-mail political editor Bryan P. Sears at political editor Bryan P. Sears@patuxent.com