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Much better choices can be found down the ballot in 2016 [Editorial]

During her three decades serving in the United States Senate, retiring Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski has been a friend to Harford County, most particularly during the base realignment process, known as BRAC, that favored Aberdeen Proving Ground and its aftermath.

Our county will certainly miss Mikulski, as will all Marylanders and the nation. We can recall meeting with Mikulski back in 1986, when she was first running for the Senate, after a number of years representing Baltimore City in the House of Representatives. Would she be willing to look out for the interests of less populated counties versus those of the bigger ones? We recall her answer: If she didn't, we should call her right up and chew her out. In the ensuing 30 years, that call was never made.

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The two major party candidates running to succeed Mikulski, Democrat Chris Van Hollen, a congressman from Montgomery County, and Republican Kathy Szeliga, a state delegate who lives in Perry Hall and represents both western Harford and eastern Baltimore County in Annapolis, bring much to the table. Let us say from the outset we feel either one is well-qualified to succeed Mikulski.

Call us overly parochial if you wish, but once again we believe in applying the test of which candidate will do the most for Harford County and best represent its interests in the Senate? On that basis, the clear choice is Szeliga, who is familiar with our area, has worked with leaders of both political parties and adheres closest to our ideal of small, efficient government that supports the average citizen, not the political class inside the Capital Beltway.

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A strong turnout in Harford is a must if Szeliga is going to defeat Van Hollen, just as the strong turnout locally two years ago helped propel Larry Hogan to the governor's mansion. No matter how you feel about the candidates at the top of this year's ballot, show up and support Szeliga.

Both incumbent congressman who represent Harford County, Republican Andy Harris in the First District, covering northern and central Harford, and Democrat C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger in the Second District, covering the Route 40 corridor, are running for re-election.

Ruppersberger long ago passed our test of supporting Harford County – particularly where Aberdeen Proving Ground is concerned, and we believe he should be returned to office. His Republican challenger, Pat McDonough, has represented the western side of Harford County in the House of Delegates for a decade.

Aside from his tendency to resort to bombast and hyperbole like the candidate at the top of the Republican ticket, with whom he shares many of the same views, we've come to accept McDonough as one of our state legislators, as have clearly the voters who keep sending him back to the State House. We're just ready to for the Pat McDonough show to play Washington in these uncertain financial times, particularly when the future and continued viability of Harford County's largest employment center may be at stake. Ruppersberger's seniority and knowledge of military and national security affairs – and how to get them funded – is a much better fit for Harford County in the House of Representatives.

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Harris is opposed by Democrat Joe Werner, a Bel Air resident who was an unsuccessful candidate for Harford County executive two years ago. It's been 45 years since the last Harford County resident, Sen. Joseph Tydings, served in the halls of Congress. Warner won't be the next, nor should he be.

We don't countenance many of Harris' ultra-right positions, which also have tended to relegate him to mostly being an back-bencher during his nearly six years in Congress, but he's still a proven public servant with a good record of constituent service. And, Harford County voters who live the First District love him for it, so who are we to argue? Besides, there's no more qualified member of either house to help right the national health care mess than Andy Harris, the physician, should he choose to approach the issue more collaboratively. We can always hope.

Also on the ballot is Harford County Circuit Court Judge Kevin Mahoney, who is unopposed for a full 15-year-term on the Harford County, following his appointment by Gov. Hogan last December. We said then that we felt Mahoney was a good choice. Members of the local legal establishment must think so, too, because nobody challenged him in last summer's primary election.

The final ballot position is occupied by Question A, the proposed county charter amendment on which we had plenty to say last Friday; however, it's still worth repeating: Vote "No" on Question A.

Voters share their views on the importance of casting a ballot during early voting at the McFaul Activity Center in Bel Air Thursday morning. (David Anderson, Baltimore Sun Media Group)
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