Holmes: A Long-Shot No Longer

September 26, 1994

When Linda A. Holmes, a Westminster attorney, volunteered to run as a Democrat for Carroll County state's attorney, conventional political wisdom was that she was a sacrificial lamb destined to be slaughtered at the polls. With six weeks until the Nov. 8 general election, the prospects for Ms. Holmes' improbable candidacy have improved to the point where she might well win.

Much has changed since the county's Democratic Party Central Committee announced last July that it had finally located a candidate. The party had for months waged a behind-the-scenes recruiting effort to encourage local attorneys to carry the party's banner in this election, but no one showed an interest. Even though five-term incumbent Thomas E. Hickman had a challenger in the Republican primary, everyone expected him to defeat his former protege Jerry F. Barnes, as he had done four years ago. In refusing their party's pleas, Democratic attorneys surmised that Mr. Hickman would wage another mean-spirited campaign, and they didn't want any part of it.

Thanks to a well-funded campaign and an accumulation of resentment against Mr. Hickman's heavy-handed prosecutorial style, Mr. Barnes squeaked by his opponent in the GOP primary two weeks ago. Rather than concede defeat, Mr. Hickman has decided to wage a write-in campaign for November.

Even though Ms. Holmes is a political neophyte with no criminal trial experience, she can capture those Carroll voters who dislike both Mr. Hickman and Mr. Barnes. While Mr. Barnes has been Mr. Hickman's political adversary the past five years, many residents remember him as Mr. Hickman's closest and most loyal assistant for many years and still hold that against him. Mrs. Holmes will attract a number of Hickman supporters -- many Democrats -- who despise Mr. Barnes but don't want to throw away their votes in a doomed write-in campaign.

In the end, Mr. Barnes and Mr. Hickman will split the GOP voters who wouldn't support a Democrat under any circumstances. The beneficiary will be Ms. Holmes, who should capture the majority of the county's Democratic voters as well as anti-Barnes voters who don't believe in write-ins. Ms. Holmes no longer should be considered a sacrificial lamb.

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