Suzanne Mensh, who in 28 years of running for countywide office in Baltimore County has never lost, cruised to an easy victory in a hard-fought, bitter race to retain her job as clerk of the county Circuit Court.
"I feel great," Mensh, 60, said last night from the Board of Elections Supervisors office in Parkville.
With all 153 precincts counted, Mensh soundly defeated her challenger in the Democratic primary, A. Gordon Boone III. Mensh had 37,754 votes, or 61 percent, to 23,887, or 39 percent, for Boone, a 32-year-old courtroom clerk who has served under Mensh for the past four years.
Because no Republican ran, Mensh will hold the $45,000-a-year post for the next four years.
Few long-time observers of the county political scene gave Boone much hope of winning, given Mensh's countywide track record. She had been elected an Orphans Court judge six times and clerk of the court in 1986. Still, the race for the typically low profile office erupted into one of the more spirited in Baltimore County this primary season.
"It looks like I'm getting thumped," Boone said last night. "I'm bummed, man, but I'll live."
During his six-month campaign attacking the way Mensh ran the clerk's office, Boone circulated glossy photos of the courthouse file rooms in Towson that he charged proved the office was being mismanaged.
Mensh reacted by saying she was doing a good job, considering the office was under budget constraints and severe space limitations. She traded accusations by saying Boone breached courthouse security by taking the photos.
Things got more interesting in August, when Mensh ordered Boone back to work early from an unpaid leave of absence -- time Boone was using to try to unseat her.
Boone refused to return and charged Mensh with playing politics, a charge Mensh staunchly denied even though she at first referred a reporter's questions on the matter to her campaign manager.
After Boone filed suit against Mensh to prevent her from firing him, Mensh responded with charges of her own, namely that Boone had been convicted of driving under the influence and generally had a bad driving record.
"My opponent started slinging mud early on," Mensh said.
Boone said he would be returning to work today at his job as courtroom clerk. He said he'd also drop his suit against Mensh.
When Mensh was told Boone was coming back to work, Mensh's victory smile faded and she grew quiet, but finally said, "His job's there."