Schafer Stunned By Loss In The Race For Court Clerk

November 08, 1990|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff writer

Now that you've lost the election, what are you going to do?

Tough to say when you're running for re-election to the unglamorous job of clerk of Circuit Court -- and never dreamed you'd be bounced out of office.

Ask H. Erle Schafer, whose two decades in county politics include stints as a county councilman and a state senator, an unsuccessful run for county executive and a term as clerk of court. After Republican Mary M. Rose pulled 56 percent of the vote to ruin Schafer's re-election bid, he could only say, "I certainly did not expect this. I have no long-range plans."

"I wish I could explain it," Schafer added. "After 20 years, I guess you acquire a lot of baggage."

Two of those with baggage were shown the courthouse door in Tuesday's election. Another Democratic veteran, seven-term sheriff William R.

Huggins, 75, was trounced by Republican challenger Robert G. Pepersack, a state police sergeant and political newcomer who received 68 percent of the vote.

"I carried the message the sheriff's office isn't working and the voters listened," said Pepersack, but he added, "I think the 'throw the rascals out' syndrome that's sweeping the country didn't hurt me a bit."

And he admitted: "I never, never in my wildest dreams expected to have a mandate like this." Pepersack received more than 70,000 votes -- more than any other candidate for countywide office.

The 49-year-old sheriff-elect's brother, Norman Pepersack, also unseated an incumbent sheriff, winning the race in Baltimore County.

Bob Pepersack said yesterday he already had asked state officials to conduct a fiscal and management audit of the sheriff's department.

He added, "I think that the sheriff's wife will retire gracefully."

Repeated attempts to reach Huggins yesterday were unsuccessful, but his wife, Jeanette Huggins, a sergeant in the sheriff's department, said she, indeed, would retire -- ASAP.

State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee, running in his first election since being appointed to replace longtime officeholder Warren B. Duckett Jr. two years ago, managed to hold off his Republican challenger, Timothy D. Murnane. Weathersbee, 46, won with 52 percent of the vote.

Murnane, a 37-year-old former assistant public defender who resigned last summer to challenge Weathersbee, had portrayed the incumbent as a complacent, unimaginative leader.

"I realized I was taking on an institution, a Democratic machine, in a sense, the bar association, all those kinds of things," Murnane said. "It was a Herculean task and we came real close.

As for Rose's unexpected win over Schafer for clerk of court, loyal Republican Murnane said, "What a treat, what an absolute treat."

Rose, 44, of Annapolis, chairwoman of the county's Republican State Central Committee, was on a plane to Florida yesterday on a long-planned trip, said her 19-year-old daughter, Sarina Rose. She said her mother had expected a close election but was surprised at the large margin of victory.

"All I know is she looked ecstatic," she said yesterday.

Soon-to-be-ex-Clerk of Court Schafer said he hadn't talked to Rose, but "I certainly want to encourage her and support her in whatever she does here."

Schafer, 52, did not lay his defeat to unity among Republican voters.

Pointing to reports on controversies during his term, including a critical auditor's report from the comptroller's office, Schafer said, "Each time one of those little articles appeared over the four years, it took a little piece of my hide. . . . Obviously, I was perceived out there as not being the guy for the job."

In the race for orphans' court judges, Judith Duckett, Janet S. Owens and incumbent Marie A. Durner, all Democrats, were elected. Republican George M. Nutwell Jr. easily gained re-election as register of wills.

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