Despite accident, Cale is undeterred

April 08, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

Leslie Jean Cale was down but she's not out.

The candidate for Howard County Clerk of the Courts wants to dispel rumors she's pulling out of the race because of serious injuries she received when she was struck by a truck while trying to rescue an injured raccoon.

Ms. Cale, of Ellicott City, was released from the Montebello Rehabilitation Hospital in Baltimore yesterday after a four-week recovery from injuries she received in the Feb. 24 accident.

The 36-year-old Democrat also spent two weeks in the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where she underwent about eight hours of surgery to repair fractures in her back and pelvis.

"I know I have a big setback," Ms. Cale said of her campaign. "But there's no reason to quit. I'll campaign in a wheelchair if I have to."

Despite her injuries, Ms. Cale remains good-natured about the accident. She said it even gave her a new campaign slogan: "Even a truck can't stop Cale."

Ms. Cale said she does not intend to change her campaign strategy, although she admits she may have difficulty with some parts of campaigning, particularly going door-to-door to meet voters.

Ms. Cale is the only candidate to file candidacy papers for the clerk's office in this fall's election. The clerk oversees about 30 employees in an office that processes civil filings and criminal cases, issues a variety of permits and licenses, manages deeds and land records, and conducts courthouse weddings.

The incumbent, Republican Margaret Rappaport, said she expects to announce her plans for re-election in several weeks.

Ms. Cale said she realizes the going will be slow in the months to come.

She does not expect to return to work as a court reporter for Howard Circuit Judge James Dudley for possibly another three months.

In therapy sessions at Montebello, Ms. Cale has learned how to get in and out of a bed, a car and her wheelchair.

She has worked out with weights to regain her strength. She has learned how to walk with a walker, a task made difficult by a brace for her pelvis that prevents her from moving her left leg.

"This is the hardest thing that has ever happened to me," Ms. Cale said. "I am so independent, and [now] I can't do anything. . . . I have no control over me."

Ms. Cale vividly recalls being struck by a Ford Bronco driven by Republican County Councilman Charles C. Feaga, who lives near the scene of the accident.

Ms. Cale was driving to a Democratic club meeting in Ellicott City on Frederick Road, just east of Marriottsville Road, when she saw a raccoon that had been struck by a car.

A self-described animal lover, Ms. Cale stopped to help the raccoon. She covered the animal with her coat and was picking it up when she was hit by Mr. Feaga's vehicle.

Mr. Feaga told police he saw a car parked along the road with its hazard lights blinking and was slowing down to offer his help when he struck Ms. Cale.

Ms. Cale also wants to end another rumor that she intends to file a lawsuit against Mr. Feaga.

"I consider it a freak accident," she said. "That's the end of it."

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