In the most hotly contested judicial race in Baltimore County in 10 years, the county's five sitting judges held onto their jobs as voters chose them over four lawyers challenging for their seats on the Circuit Court bench.
Dundalk Del. Louis L. DePazzo, D-7th, mounted the strongest challenge, falling behind Judge Edward A. DeWaters Jr. by 1,024 votes in the Republican primary and by 6,805 votes in the Democratic contest.
At one point during last night's vote tabulation, Mr. DePazzo actually led Judge DeWaters in the Republican primary by about 100 votes.
In judicial elections, candidates are entered in both the Republican and Democratic parties, and can gain a spot in the general election by being among the top vote-getters in either primary.
Judge Thomas J. Bollinger Sr., J. Norris Byrnes, Robert E. Cahill Sr. and Christian M. Kahl easily were the top vote-getters in both Republican and Democratic primaries, ahead of Judge DeWaters, who finished fifth in each.
Mr. DePazzo finished sixth in both primaries, while the other challengers -- District Court Judge A. Gordon Boone Jr. and attorneys Joseph S. Lyons and Albert G. Boyce -- finished seventh, eighth andninth respectively.
"I'm not surprised that it was close," said Judge DeWaters. "Our opponents worked very hard."
Mr. DePazzo, meeting with supporters at a union hall in Dundalk, said, "Even if we lose the battle, we won the war. They heard from us. . . . We caused some damage."
The sitting judges waged a strong campaign themselves, with campaign workers at most of the county's 153 polling places handing out sample ballots and fliers.
Doris J. Suter, election administrator for Baltimore County, who said no sitting judge in Baltimore County has ever been unseated in a popular election, added that the 1992 campaign had been the most hotly contested judges' race since 1982. In that race, six candidates vied for four seats on the bench.
One of the challengers in that campaign, Robert J. Dougherty, won the Republican primary but lost in the general election to the four sitting judges.
In combined numbers from both primaries yesterday, Judge Bollinger led the field with 63,121 votes. Judge Cahill was second with 59,024, Judge Byrnes third with 55,462, Judge Kahl fourth with 55,168, and Judge DeWaters fifth with 53,329.
Mr. DePazzo had 45,500 votes, Judge Boone 40,631, Mr. Lyons 26,343 and Mr. Boyce 20,656 total votes.