Baltimore County Courthouse Picks

October 11, 1994

Does the average citizen of Baltimore County know or care much about the political intrigue behind the elections for courthouse offices? Not likely. Yet plenty of intrigue there is, misspent though it may be on what are basically administrative jobs heavy on paper-pushing.

Take the Register of Wills race. Democrat Peter J. Basilone has held the position capably enough for many years. Republican Patrick L. McDonough has undertaken an ambitious campaign to unseat the incumbent. But frankly, Mr. McDonough worries us. As Register of Wills, he says, he would crusade for changes in estate laws, perhaps forgetting that this is the province of the state legislature and that such soapboxing is a tad zealous for an official whose main duty is to see that the wills office runs efficiently. We support Mr. Basilone for another term.

The court clerk's contest, between Democratic incumbent Suzanne Mensh and GOP challenger Joyce Grimm, has likewise been heated. It pits two factions of the clerk's office (Ms. Grimm is director of assignments there). But, as in Mr. Basilone's case, we know of no compelling reason to oppose the incumbent. Ms. Mensh gets our nod.

The county's Orphans' Court, which handles the assets and liabilities of the deceased, involves duties of a more deliberative nature but is not without political jockeying.

The Democrats in the race are sitting chief judge Grace G. Connolly, Catherine A. Davis and Julie L. Ensor. The GOP nominees are sitting judge Sandra L. O'Connell-Hughes, Victoria Chambers and Edward Fowler. We back Ms. Connolly, Ms. O'Connell-Hughes and Ms. Chambers.

The most closely watched courthouse race may be the shoot-out for sheriff between GOP incumbent Norman M. Pepersack Jr. and Democratic challenger Charles W. Norris.

While Mr. Pepersack deserves credit for professionalizing aspects of the office, he also has caused ill will for himself and his department by overreaching for police-like duties, a trait he has shared with his brother Robert, the Anne Arundel County sheriff.

We believe Mr. Norris, the Eastpoint Mall security chief who distinguished himself during a varied 23-year career with the county police department, would bring greater professionalism to the sheriff's office. We wholeheartedly support Mr. Norris for Baltimore County sheriff.

Tomorrow: Harford County ballot questions.

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