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not easy being red Clinton resident Vernon Hayes wasn surprised to lose Tuesday in his race against Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D) for the District 27 seat. A Republican for most of his life, Hayes said he doubts a Republican could ever win a state or local seat in southern Prince George County, a longtime Democratic stronghold, but jumped in the race to offer residents an alternative. Hayes isn alone, but he is a member of a party whose base is shrinking in the county. The percentage of Prince George voters who registered as Republican declined steadily during the past decade, from 14 percent in 2000 to 9 percent as of September, according to voter registration data from the Maryland Board of Elections. Statewide, Democrats made up 56 percent of registered voters and Republicans made up 27 percent, as of September. Republican candidates and residents in south county say election season is frustrating on several levels. Candidates at the state and county levels say they can compete with what many refer to as the county machine when it comes to fundraising and outreach, while residents say they feel shut out of most county races, which tend to be decided during closed primary races where there are no Republican challengers. Upper Marlboro resident Regina Piazza, a registered Republican, said she values being able to vote for Republican candidates in statewide and national races, but is considering switching parties because she feels shut out when it comes to county politics. Piazza can only vote in races with Republican candidates during Prince George County closed primary elections, but most local races from county executive and sheriff down to her District 9 council member were decided in the primary since there were no Republicans running. looked at some of the candidates and got information, and I just had to sit and watch, she said. live here and this is your community, and you really don have a say. Rowe, who has lived in Oxon Hill since 1978 and is the outgoing president of the Southern Prince George Republican Club, said he can remember a time when Republicans made up more than 14 percent of county voters Board of Elections voter registration data was unavailable before 2000 and Republicans were still being elected to county offices. According to the Prince George County Board of Elections, Lawrence J. Hogan was the last Republican to serve as county executive, from 1978 to 1982, and Maryland Republican Party Chairwoman Audrey E. Scott was the last Republican to serve on the county council, from 1994 to 2002. The political landscape changed as the county grew more racially diverse, Rowe said. Although the Board of Elections does not break down voter registration by race, black residents are more likely to vote Democrat. A recent pre election poll by The Washington Post found that 83 percent of African American voters in Maryland favored Democrat Gov. Martin O over his Republican challenger, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Upper Marlboro resident Dot Principe, a former member of the Prince George County Republican Central Committee, said she also thinks the central committee and other local conservative groups have failed to mobilize young people in the county. Principe said young people often bring more energy to campaigning and organize outreach campaigns to show residents that on certain issues at the county level, such as reducing crime or preserving the environment, they may be in agreement regardless of political affiliation. Republicans have continued to challenge several Democratic incumbents to represent Prince George County in the state legislature and Congress, often echoing Hayes sentiment that even though they may lose, at least their message is out there. Hayes received 25 percent of votes in the District 27 race, which includes southeastern Prince George County and a section of Calvert County. Croom resident Michael Hethmon, one of two Republicans to challenge longtime incumbent Del. James E. Proctor Jr. (D Dist. 27A) and Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D Dist. 27A), who retained their seats, said he knew he was facing long odds when he entered the race for the second time. He ran unsuccessfully for the same seat as a Republican in 2006 and lost in the primary election. Hethmon said that while Democratic residents may disagree with his platforms, he believes incumbents should be challenged, regardless of party affiliation.