DUNDALK, Md - The count finally stopped at 29.
Political observers weren’t surprised.
Twenty-nine is the number of candidates that have filed with the Maryland Board of Elections to represent Dundalk in both the Baltimore County Council and the Maryland General Assembly.
It’s the most candidates of any representative district in Baltimore County.
The race is also catching the eye of the Maryland Republican Party, which is eyeing the community as a way to gain more representation in public office.
“The race in Dundalk hasn’t gone unnoticed,” said Del. Steve Schuh, head of the Anne Arundel County Delegation, “While traditionally democratic, many residents here hold strong Republican values.”
Dundalk is represented in the county council as district 7. In the general assembly, the community is represented as district 6.
That includes one senator and three delegate positions.
John Bullock, a political science professor at Towson University, said one reason the race is so popular is because of the number of current officials not seeking re-election.
“When there’s an opening, people are going to run,” he said.
Last year, Baltimore County Councilman John Olszewski Sr. said he would not run again. That was followed by announcements by Sen. Norman Stone and Del. Joseph “Sonny” Minnick, who said they planned to retire this year.
Del. John Olszewski Jr. also said he would vacate his position to run for state senator, leaving Del. Mike Weir as the only candidate seeking re-election.
“Ideally that leaves three seats in the general assembly and one in the county council,” Bullock said. “That fact they are all open all at once, makes it even more rare.”
It’s also enticing.
This year's group of candidates includes a variety of first-timers to longtime leaders looking for another chance to lead.
For more on getting another second chance in politics, check out our related story, Maryland Politicians Seek Second Chance .
Schuh said the Republican party is looking to gain influence in all elections, ranging from court clerks and up.
The party’s goal is to pick up at least fives seats in both houses. To do that successfully, strategists have identified races that could help with their projection.
Republicans are challenging 86 different races with candidates throughout the state, more than they’ve ever done before.
That includes Dundalk.
Parts of the state not included are Baltimore City and portions of Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.
“Some of those races are just out of our reach,” Schuh said.
Schuh said the key to winning more Republican seats in district 6 is ensuring voters know the Republicans they’re voting for.
“One thing about Dundalk is the voters care more about the person they elect, than voting upon party lines,” he said. “While many might be historically Democrat, theirs views might not align with that candidate.”
Eleven candidates from the Republican party will be on the ballot on June 24.
Todd Crandell, Republican candidate for the county council seat, is running unopposed.
Crandell said he is working close with Republicans in developing resources to help promote his campaign.
“We’re working together to boost our presence here,” he said.
Bullock said Republicans stand a good chance of gaining seats in Dundalk as long as candidates are well advertised.
Right now he doesn't see many front-runners.
“That does not include the senator race,” he said. “When Olszewski announced he was running, it pretty much stopped others from filing-- he’s the clear favorite.”
Bullock added that there is a decent chance Weir could be ousted, allowing three new delegates to take over next year.
“Again it comes down to visibility,” he said. “People who traditionally vote for the same candidates year after year, might be shocked when they go to vote and don't see certain names on the ballot.”
Stone is one of the longest serving legislators, serving 50 years in the general assembly. Minnick and Weir have both served multiple terms dating back to the 1980s.
The numerous openings have prompted newer candidates like Eric Washington to enter the race in the hopes of making a difference in the Dundalk community.
“I know it’s crowded, but in a way I expected it to be,” he said. “As long as I get my name out there and work hard in addressing our community's issues, I know I can make a difference.”
Washington said he’s already been hard at work, going to community association meetings, raising funds and door knocking.
He was inspired to run because of his role in education and his family.
“They’ve been the most supportive in helping me out,” he said. “A great support system is needed if you’re running any campaign.”
Many Dundalk residents are encouraged for a change in potential leadership, expressing their need for candidates that
will make more of an attempt to get out into the community.
“I need to see leaders that are there to make our community stronger like it used to be," said Angel Ball, a lifelong Dundalk resident.