Despite Loss In Sheriff Primary, Mele Keeps After Comes

November 04, 1990|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

Sheriff Dominick J. Mele and Robert E. Comes are ready to meet one more time at the polls -- but with a twist this time around.

In the Sept. 11 Democratic primary, challenger Comes defeated Mele, the incumbent, by more than 4,000 votes.

But while Tuesday's ballot won't list Mele's name, the sheriff will have workers at the polls. He's been running an aggressive campaign to get voters to write in his name on the ballot. The effort has been supported by a citizens group called the Countians for Independent Law Enforcement.

"I'm optimistic," said Mele, 56 and a Fallston resident said. "If I wasn't, I should have said no (to the write-in campaign) in the beginning.

But I know it's a hurdle."

"(A write-in campaign) has never been done before for sheriff," said Comes, 58, of Churchville. "We don't think it's going to work this time. .

. . But I still need the people's votes."

Comes spent 27 years with the sheriff's department, retiring as a major in January. Mele, who has been with the department for 25 years, was elected sheriff in 1986.

Until election day, members of the Countians for Independent Law Enforcement will be going to neighborhoods, shopping centers and bowling alleys to drum up support and pass out fliers explaining how to vote for Mele.

Despite his victory in the primary, Comes has maintained a visible campaign. He has gone door-to-door to meet voters, placed signs through the county and conducted a Halloween fund-raiser.

Some of Comes' signs and bumper stickers say "One More Time" to get citizens to vote for the candidate again in the general election.

Comes has raised $45,220 in the campaign for the primary and general election -- more than any other candidate has raised for the sheriff's office in memory, according to the county Board of Elections. Comes took out two personal loans, totaling $12,600, for the campaign.

Mele, meanwhile, has raised $27,742, including a $3,700 personal loan, records at the elections office show.

Throughout the campaign, Mele and the Countians for Independent Law Enforcement have criticized Comes' willingness to support the forming of a county police force will cost taxpayers millions.

Comes said he is willing to go along with a county police department, but only if the next county executive decides to pursue such a plan. Mele said he will fight plans for a county police force.

Comes said he thinks the cost of forming a police department would be minimal, citing a 1988 police study by the county. Many of the sheriff's department's uniforms and equipment could be used by the new agency, he said.

If formed, the agency would handle routine patrols and criminal investigations. The sheriff's department would still serve court papers, provide court security and oversee the county detention center.

Mele and the citizens group argue a county police force would duplicate many services provided by the sheriff's department. They add that voters will not be able to choose the police chief, who would be appointed by the county executive.

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