Judges, rivals share win Fall rematch likely in Howard

March 06, 1996|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

The bitterly fought primary battle for two Howard County Circuit Court judgeships ended yesterday with the strong prospect of a similar round of campaign hostilities this fall.

Both major slates of candidates -- one made up of two sitting judges appointed by Gov. Parris Glendening last fall and the other composed of their two leading challengers -- survived the primary to run again in the fall general election.

With 83 of 85 precincts reporting last night -- all but absentee ballots -- the two sitting judges, Diane O. Leasure and Donna Hill Staton, took the county's Democratic primary.

Their two main challengers -- District Judge Lenore A. Gelfman and attorney Jonathan Scott Smith -- prevailed in the county's Republican primary.

In taking even one of the two party primaries from the incumbents, the Gelfman-Smith team claimed a big victory. "We have shattered the sitting-judge principle in Howard County," Mr. Smith said. "They changed from sitting judges to sitting ducks."

The appointed incumbents -- Judge Leasure is the county's first female Circuit Court judge and Judge Hill Staton the county's first black judge -- vowed to continue the fight.

A third challenger -- Jay Fred Cohen, who ran a low-key campaign -- trailed in both primaries.

The split in the results between the two parties reflects the unusually contentious judicial race, which has been marked by repeated complaints and counter-charges, particularly over TV ads run by the Gelfman-Smith slate.

In part, Judge Gelfman and Mr. Smith -- with strong ties to the county's legal establishment -- campaigned against Mr. Glendening and County Councilman C. Vernon Gray, a Columbia Democrat, accusing them of fulfilling his goal of making the Howard bench more diverse by appointing lawyers inexperienced in criminal law.

In yesterday's vote to pick two candidates to vie for a single seat on the Howard school board in the fall, returns were close, with Francine Wishnick, Jane Schuchardt and Virginia Charles on top.

In Harford County, Circuit Judge Thomas E. Marshall, a Democrat, defeated Republican Steven J. Scheinin in both primaries. He will run unopposed in the fall.

In Anne Arundel County, four sitting judges -- Eugene M. Lerner, Martin A. Wolff, Clayton Greene Jr. and Pamela North -- swept to victory over Daniel C. Conkling, a Pasadena resident, who was criticized for his lack of courtroom experience.

Pub Date: 3/06/96

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