Barnes close to unseating Hickman PRIMARY ELECTION RESULTS 1994

September 14, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

Thomas E. Hickman's 20-year reign as Carroll's top prosecutor could come to an end this evening when election officials tally the choices of the county's 852 absentee voters.

With all 41 precincts counted, Mr. Hickman trailed Jerry F. Barnes, his Republican primary challenger and one-time employee, by 192 votes. The margin -- less than 2 percent of the more than 12,000 votes cast -- was too slim this morning for either candidate to declare victory or to concede defeat.

But Mr. Hickman -- who spent most of last night huddled with supporters at the GOP gathering at Frock's Sunnybrook Farm in Westminster -- hinted in an interview that if Mr. Barnes should win, it would be the fault of the news media.

"If the media had done their job and reported that the defense bar bought Mr. Barnes, the results would have been different," he said. "Obviously they didn't contribute to a candidate who is going to be hard-nosed with them, like we are."

Mr. Hickman referred to the most recent campaign finance reports to back up his assertion. According to those filings -- as reported in the Sept. 4 edition of The Sun -- only about $725 of the nearly $14,200 Mr. Hickman raised came from attorneys outside his office.

By contrast, Mr. Barnes counted many contributions of more than $1,000 from members of Carroll's defense bar. Indeed, Charles Hollman and his law partner, J. Barry Hughes -- both fervently anti-Hickman -- each gave Mr. Barnes $1,000, while other notable Westminster defense attorneys Michael Levin, Stephen Timchula and David Weisgerber contributed more than $250 each.

Should Mr. Barnes win the Republican nod, the incumbent said he could easily return to the private practice of law.

Mr. Barnes could not be reached early today to comment on Mr. Hickman's assertion, but he said late last night that he "was pleased with the outcome and confident."

In an earlier interview last night, Mr. Barnes, the Frederick County Assistant State's Attorney said, "I feel I put forth the best effort that I could. It's still early, but I know there is a great degree of sentiment for change, and, if these results hold, there will be some change."

While the campaign was quiet compared with the one four years ago -- when Mr. Hickman won against the then-Democrat by a margin of less than 2 percent -- Mr. Barnes hit hard at the county's drug task force and the state's attorney's office recent string of appellate court reversals on felony convictions.

To be sure, the candidates took subtle hits at each other in newspaper advertisements that ran last week. Mr. Barnes said in one ad that he would "guard against criminals going free due to technicalities," an apparent reference to the Court of Special Appeals' decision to overturn the first-degree murder conviction of a Pennsylvania man accused of strangling a woman on a Harney farm in 1991.

The appellate court overturned James Howard VanMetre III's conviction because prosecutors failed to try him within six months of his attorney's entrance into the case.

Should Mr. Barnes' lead hold, he would face Linda A. Holmes -- who was uncontested in yesterday's Democratic primary. Mrs. Holmes said she would campaign the same against either of the Republicans.

"I'm going to focus on management issues, and how it impacts the prosecution of criminals," the Westminster attorney said.

In another 1990 rematch of sorts, incumbent Republican Clerk of the Circuit Court Larry W. Shipley captured 64 percent of the vote against his primary opponent, Diane E. O'Leary.

Ms. O'Leary lost the race in 1990, when she ran against Mr. Shipley as a Democrat.

He faces former Manchester Mayor Phillip R. Miller, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. Mr. Shipley's deputy, Donald B. Sealing II, failed to unseat another long-time incumbent in the GOP register of wills race. Mr. Sealing garnered about 47 percent of the vote. Reese L. Starner took 53 percent.

Mr. Starner will face Suzanne W. Albert, who was unopposed in yesterday's Democratic primary.

In another courthouse race, voters in both parties selected three nominees for Orphans' Court judges. Republicans picked Walter T. Haines Jr., Albert W. Selby and Dorothy V. Utz. Incumbent Harrison E. Utz failed to make the top-three. They will face the unopposed Democrats, John Lockard Barnes, Naomi Benzil and Robert E. Kersey.

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