June C. Haliscak's involvement in county politics never went beyond the voting booth.
That changed when Sheriff Dominick J. Mele lost the Sept. 11 primary by more than 4,000 votes.
These days, Haliscak, a part-time accounting and computer assistant, heads a citizens group organizing Mele's write-in campaign in the general election against Robert E. Comes, winner of the Democratic primary.
With little time and less money, Haliscak and the group -- Countians for Independent Law Enforcement -- are putting together a grass-roots campaign that they hope will lead Mele to victory in the Nov. 6 election.
"I'm not having second thoughts about what we're doing," said Haliscak, of Bel Air. "A lot of people say a write-in campaign can't be done. It can be done."
Group members say they decided to organize Mele's campaign because they oppose Comes' position on a county police force.
Comes said during the primary that he would support the police force if the county executive forms such a department, even though the new agency would take away many of the sheriff's duties.
Mele said he is staunchly against forming a county police force.
So are members of Countians for Independent Law Enforcement.
"A sheriff has a vested interest in this county," Haliscak said. "A sheriff represents the people. He doesn't represent the politicians."
Roger W. Lambie, a Joppatowne member of the group, said the group is concerned that twice as many tax dollars would be needed to operate a county police force as well as the sheriff's department. The police force would require its own building, vehicles and equipment.
The 260-member sheriff's department runs on a $13 million budget.
He added that citizens would no longer be able to vote for the leader of the county's largest law-enforcement agency because a police chief would be appointed by the county executive.
Even if the police department is formed, political squabbling would continue, Lambie said. However, the squabbling would go behind closed doors, away from the public eye.
Members of Countians for Independent Law Enforcement asked Mele if he would run a write-in campaign on the night of the primary, before the votes started coming in.
Mele agreed after members of the citizens group promised to organize his campaign.
The group has teamed up with some members of Mele's primary campaign organization. To avoid conflicts, Mele said members of the sheriff's department who were involved in the primary are not involved this time.
To bring Mele to victory, the group hopes to tap into the 54,000 voters who did not vote for sheriff in the primary, said member Tracy L. Harper, of Joppatowne.
Harper, a Republican, said Mele's write-in campaign will give county Republicans the first chance to vote for sheriff in many years. In the 1990 and 1986 primary elections, only Democrats sought the office.
Haliscak said the group's campaign efforts may be limited by the amount of money that can be raised. Financial reports filed with the county elections office show that Mele has $1,121 left from the primary -- but he has outstanding bills totaling $2,328.