While no sitting judge has ever been defeated in Baltimore County, the five men who currently hold places on the Circuit Court bench are nevertheless campaigning hard against four aggressive challengers.
All nine candidates have filed in both Democratic and Republican primaries. The winners will each be elected to a 15-year term as judge, a job that pays $89,000 a year.
The sitting judges -- Edward A. DeWaters Jr., Thomas J. Bollinger Sr., J. Norris Byrnes, Robert E. Cahill Sr. and Christian M. Kahl -- are running as a team. All but Judge DeWaters were appointed in August 1990. Judge DeWaters, appointed in 1975, won election in 1976.
The judges have raised nearly $250,000 and spent more than $100,000 on campaign brochures, newspaper advertising and dozens of radio ads. The challengers have not come close to that, although Del. Louis L. DePazzo, D-Dundalk, has a $36,000 campaign war chest -- $32,500 of which he lent to himself.
Judge A. Gordon Boone Jr., a 10-year veteran of the county District Court, is running because he's been passed over for the Circuit Court nine times. He has raised about $18,000, according to his campaign treasurer. Towson attorney Joseph S. Lyons jTC said he's raised between $6,000 and $8,000. Albert G. Boyce, a Parkville resident, said he's garnered less than $300 in campaign donations.
Money could prove important for the candidates as they fight for name recognition. Mr. Lyons, Judge Boone, Mr. DePazzo and the sitting judges all have run radio ads in an effort to distinguish themselves. Mr. DePazzo and the sitting judges have even run ads on cable television.
Judge Kahl, in particular, is worried about name recognition, because candidates are listed alphabetically on the ballot and his name comes next to last.
In a race that traditionally attracts little voter interest, the candidates worry that voters, knowing and caring little about them, will simply pick the first five names.
Edmund Dotterweich, chairman of the county Democratic Central Committee, said he expected Mr. DePazzo to do well in (( Dundalk, Essex and Middle River but less well in the rest of the county. On the other hand, Mr. Boone, who has strong name recognition in the north county, may not do so well on the east side, he said.
Arnold Jablon, a former county attorney who's long been active in local politics, said the controversy over allegedly racist comments Mr. DePazzo made on CNN on Feb. 2 may hurt him in Pikesville and Randallstown. But Mr. DePazzo said the controversy has "been diffused," and he insists that the judicial nominating process is too political and that there ought to be a judge from the east side on the Circuit Court bench.
Mr. Boyce, a challenger with favorable ballot position, said he's "optimistic . . because I think the sitting judges are really not well-received."
Mr. Lyons, in his campaign literature, attacks the nominating process as an "Old Boys" network that favors the politically connected and ignores qualified women and minorities. Mr. Lyons, a white man like the other eight candidates, said he believes his election to the bench would encourage qualified female and minority attorneys to run for the bench and to challenge the judicial nominating system.
As the challengers hammer away at the system and the supposed "Old Boys" network, the sitting judges have been campaigning on their resumes. They have refused to discuss issues or debate the challengers.
Candidates for bench
* Denotes sitting judge.
*Thomas J. Bollinger Sr., 50, of Fullerton is a former city prosecutor and former assistant county attorney for Baltimore County. A graduate of Loyola College and the University of Baltimore Law School, he was appointed to the Circuit Court bench in August 1990 -- after only 19 months on the District