updated 9/12/2006 4:36:47 PM ET 2006-09-12T20:36:47

Maryland Republicans and Democrats chose nominees for hundreds of federal, state and local offices Tuesday with much of the attention focused on whether voters would put an end to Comptroller William Donald Schaefer's political career.

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Schaefer, whose life in public office spans half a century, was trying to fend off a tough challenge from Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens and state delegate Peter Franchot of Montgomery County.

Other high-profile races included the Democratic contest for attorney general between Stuart Simms, a former Baltimore prosecutor and state official, and Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas Gansler, and the race for the U.S. Senate, with U.S. Rep. Ben Cardin and former congressman Kweisi Mfume considered the leading candidates in a crowded Democratic field.

Fall preliminary
For Republicans, most of the excitement will wait until November. Gov. Robert Ehrlich and Scott Rolle, the GOP candidate for attorney general, had no opponents, and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele was a sure bet to win the Republican senatorial nomination. Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley also was unopposed for the Democratic gubernatorial election. 2006 key races

Election day glitches created problems in Montgomery County, where officials said the key cards to activate electronic voting machines weren't delivered in time for the 7 a.m. opening. Voters had to use provisional ballots while the county scrambled to deliver the cards.

To accommodate voters who may have been turned away, the county board of elections filed a petition in Circuit Court to extend voting hours to 9 p.m., adding an additional hour.

"We do apologize for this rough mistake that caused a rough beginning," said county elections director Margaret Jurgensen.

A half century of political service
Schaefer's political career began in 1955 when he was elected to the Baltimore City Council. He went on to become mayor, governor and now comptroller, routinely winning elections with huge margins and holding office throughout that period except for four years when term limits ended his career as governor in 1994.

But in recent years, the 84-year-old Democrat came under fire for a series of insensitive comments about immigrants, gays and women, and quirky traits that had been part of his appeal to voters began to tarnish a record of accomplishments built up through his unceasing devotion to his duties as a public official.

Schaefer didn't help his cause in the weeks leading up the primary with his attacks on Owens, a friend he felt had betrayed him by running against him. His criticism of her hair style, his comments that she was getting fat and dressed like Mother Hubbard dominated the end of the campaign.

The race for the nomination for attorney general began as a three-way contest after the incumbent, J. Joseph Curran, decided not to seek re-election. But the Court of Appeals tossed Montgomery County Councilman Tom Perez off the ballot, ruling that he had not met the constitutional requirement that he practice law at least 10 years in Maryland.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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