With a little more than a week until the election, at least this much is certain in the three-way race for state's attorney: The candidates have already raised a total of nearly $80,000 in their quest for the top prosecutor's job.
According to campaign finance reports filed Friday, Republican Jerry F. Barnes has a $39,300 war chest, dwarfing that of his Democratic opponent, Linda A. Holmes, who has slightly more than $9,200.
The incumbent -- and write-in candidate -- Thomas E. Hickman raised nearly $29,000.
As was the case early in the campaign, the candidates and those near to them or their families have kicked in the bulk of contributions.
For Mr. Barnes, a Frederick County drug prosecutor who began his career as a prosecutor in Mr. Hickman's office, his wife's family has contributed more than $9,000, while the candidate and his wife have given the campaign several thousand more. For Ms. Holmes, $5,000 of her campaign fund was a loan from her and her husband.
And for Mr. Hickman, more than $13,000 was taken from his Individual Retirement Accounts.
The three are spending the money on billboards, campaign signs and newspaper advertisements, hoping voters will take their messages to the polls Nov. 8 and deliver them to the prosecutor's office and its $70,000 paycheck.
The three have very different ideas of how the office, with a $1.3 million budget and more than 40 employees, should be run over the next four years, and, in interviews with The Sun in recent weeks, they spoke out about each other, the job and themselves.
When Jerry F. Barnes visits for a chat, be prepared to sit down for a long time.
He comes armed with awards, statistics, letters, newspaper clippings and complicated explanations, offering them as evidence that he should be Carroll's state's attorney.
"I believe I've done a good job over the years," the Republican nominee -- who beat his former boss, incumbent Thomas E. Hickman, by less than 2 percent of the primary vote -- said in a recent interview.
"I've gained a lot of insight. To be an effective state's attorney, you must be willing to set the example for the rest of your office."
He says in his nearly four years as Frederick County's top drug prosecutor, he has never lost a felony drug case nor had a drug case overturned on appeal. He credits himself with innovative drug interdiction techniques, and with introducing some anti drug-trafficking laws in the legislature.
But mostly, he makes a point of differentiating himself from Mr. Hickman and his five terms in office.
"With new direction and new guidance, those people can really begin to serve the public," Mr. Barnes says of Mr. Hickman's 40-person staff. "There's much more to being a prosecutor than managing your office or being in the courtroom. You need to constantly use new and better tools. That's very important."
Mr. Barnes has wanted to be Carroll's top prosecutor since 1989, when he decided to end his nearly 13-year association with Mr. Hickman and run against him as a Democrat. In an ugly, bitter and divisive campaign, Mr. Hickman beat Mr. Barnes by less than 2 percent of the vote in the general election.
Since losing that election, Mr. Barnes has been head of the Frederick County Narcotics Task Force. He says he enjoys prosecuting drug crimes, and, if elected, he will immediately assume the reins of Carroll's beleaguered drug task force.
He talks about Frederick's aggressive -- "but legal" -- war on drugs, one he wants to repeat in Carroll.
"We can wage an all-out offensive, using all of the skill, experience and resources we have. We are at the point where we have a chance to stem the tide. This is the point in time that we can take care of the drug distribution situation before it escalates out of control."
Inevitably, as he talks about drugs, Mr. Barnes refers to his record in Frederick. Despite his campaign claims, however, he does not have a perfect appellate record.
According to Frederick County court records, the conviction of a New York drug dealer accused of attempted murder was overturned last year. Mr. Barnes doesn't see the reversal as a "drug case," although as prosecutor, he told the jury trying the case about the defendant's involvement in the drug trade.
And, despite campaign rhetoric blasting easy plea bargains for drug defendants, Mr. Barnes -- by his own admission -- has secured plea deals that have resulted in misdemeanor convictions for cases originally charged as felonies.
Since losing the Republican primary, Mr. Hickman has accused Mr. Barnes of being in the pockets of Carroll defense attorneys.
According to campaign finance reports, local defense attorneys
do not make up the bulk of Mr. Barnes' nearly $40,000 war chest. The biggest contributors are the family of Mr. Barnes' wife, Carmen Amedori.
Mr. Barnes and other political observers have called Mr. Hickman's assertion that defense lawyers expect favors from him "absurd."