Sitting judges win endorsement Democratic club favors Leasure and Hill Staton

February 21, 1996|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

The Ellicott City Democratic Club -- in a staid forum last night -- endorsed Howard County Circuit Judges Diane O. Leasure and Donna Hill Staton for the March 5 primary.

Unlike some other forums during the campaign, this one lacked lively speeches from the sitting judges and their three challengers. Also, there was no rigorous question-and-answer session.

The only drama of the evening was when Judge Hill Staton was not endorsed in the first round of voting.

Of 22 ballots cast for each office in the first round, the candidates needed 12 votes for endorsement. Judge Leasure won the club's support with 13 votes.

District Court Judge Lenora R. Gelfman received 11 votes; Judge Staton, 10; attorney Jonathan Scott Smith, 6; and attorney Jay Fred Cohen, 1.

In the second round, 15 ballots were cast and a majority of eight votes was needed. Judge Hill Staton received nine votes and Judge Gelfman five.

"Whether we're endorsed in the first vote or the second vote, we don't see a difference," Judge Hill Staton said.

Before the vote, Mr. Smith said he wasn't there to seek an endorsement.

"I believe endorsements in a nonpartisan race is probably inappropriate," said Mr. Smith, the only Republican in the race, adding that his and Judge Gelfman's campaign is about "qualifications and experience, not political connections."

The two challengers have contended that the appointments of Judges Hill Staton and Leasure can be attributed more to Gov. Parris N. Glendening's drive for diversity on the bench than to the candidates' merits.

Judge Gelfman again issued a challenge to the sitting judges to release their confidential applications for the judgeships, as she and Mr. Smith have.

Mr. Cohen, the third challenger, who never applied for a judgeship, touted his experience and decried that the race has broken into two factions -- those supporting Mr. Glendening's appointments and those who do not.

"I figured the people needed a third," he said of his candidacy.

Judge Leasure became the county's first female circuit judge Nov. 13 and Judge Hill Staton became the county's first black judge Nov. 20.

They have been endorsed by the Columbia Democratic Club, Howard County African American Coalition, Maryland State Bar Association and state Women's Bar Association.

"The fact that [endorsements] keep coming in is very gratifying," Judge Leasure said after the voting.

The club also endorsed school board candidate Francine Wishnick after three rounds of voting.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.