Sheriff incumbent declines to debate

October 02, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

Dwight D. Eisenhower was president when the last Republican campaigned for sheriff in Harford County.

Rita A. Dather, administrator for the county Board of Supervisors of Elections, confirmed that implausible fact last week, but Sheriff Robert E. Comes, the Democratic incumbent, said he hasn't thought of it as giving him an edge in his bid for re-election Nov. 8.

"We're still out there working hard, knocking on doors in a few neighborhoods, mostly on Saturdays," he said.

While Mr. Comes has remained low-key -- "I'm running on my record and my experience," he says -- Joseph P. Meadows, the Republican challenger, is literally limping through the county to deliver his message to the voters.

Mr. Meadows fractured his right foot two weeks ago in a freak accident at home. But he said his cast and cane have not slowed his aggressive door-to-door campaign.

Mr. Meadows said 10 days ago that he wanted to debate Mr. Comes "on the issues." He said he would rent a hall at Harford Community College, offer Mr. Comes' three potential dates and ask members of the media to question both candidates.

"I just declined," said Mr. Comes. The incumbent also said he has curtailed door-to-door campaigning on weekday evenings. "You just get started and darkness sets in," he said.

Meanwhile, his challenger has taken a six-week leave from his job as a prosecutor in the Harford state's attorney's office to campaign about 17 hours a day. On Wednesday evening, Mr. Meadows went to Aberdeen Hills, a quiet community off Paradise Road. He didn't talk about specific issues with people who answered his knocks, but gave them a smile, a handshake and campaign literature and a plea that they read it. He was accompanied to the neighborhood by five campaign workers who canvassed homes separately.

"I enjoy [knocking on doors] more than waving at cars," Mr. Meadows said before approaching the first of about 45 houses PTC that he visited within 90 minutes that day.

Herbert Warzecha, 57, came to his door and greeted the candidate warmly. Mr. Warzecha said he has not followed the sheriff's race closely. He explained to Mr. Meadows that he had a cancerous brain tumor removed two months ago and was driving daily to Johns Hopkins Hospital for chemotherapy.

"I thought I had problems," Mr. Meadows said, raising his cane and pointing to his cast. "You look great for all you have gone through. I hope you will look this [literature] over and consider voting for me in November."

"People generally are very polite," Mr. Meadows said later.

"Even those who support my opponent usually just say, 'I'm voting for Bob Comes,' and close the door. A few -- only a few -- have been less than nice. One man tore up my pamphlet right there in front of me."

Mr. Meadows, 34, talked excitedly as he visited each house.

"You've got my vote," said Ken Caldwell, 40, greeting the candidate with a smile. "I'm active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Comes has never been on our side. It's time for a change."

Thomas Emerson, 48, a registered Democrat, said problems at the Harford County Detention Center would likely cause him to vote for the Republican candidate next month.

Mr. Comes said he would let his record stand.

He reiterated that, amid all the controversy in the wake of inmate William Ford's death at the county jail in March 1992, "No one in the sheriff's office has ever been found guilty of any wrongdoing."

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