State's attorney will run again McLendon promises four more years of 'vigorous prosecution'

March 25, 1998|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Howard County State's Attorney Marna McLendon, standing on the tough-on-crime platform that got her elected, announced her run for re-election yesterday with a promise of four more years of "vigorous prosecution."

McLendon, a Republican, highlighted initiatives such as school-oriented programs to prevent crime, an expanded role in the community for prosecutors and a juvenile crime crackdown as signs of her successful first term in office.

"For the future, I'm going to say that I offer you more of the same," she said in an announcement in Ellicott City Circuit Courthouse attended by prosecutors and several local Republican leaders.

"I committed four years ago to making this office one of the best in the state -- professional, responsive and committed to integrity and vigorous prosecution," McLendon added. "I believe we have done that."

As the race begins to shape up, political observers say much of the campaign rhetoric will focus on what McLendon has done in the past three years.

"She has a record this time, and, for better or for worse, the campaign will largely revolve around that record," said Columbia pollster Brad Coker.

Her Democratic opponent, Timothy J. McCrone, has criticized her record as showing "ineffective prosecution." He cites statistics he says indicate that just over half the people prosecutors take to trial are convicted.

McCrone -- and others -- have criticized McLendon for handing off to the state prosecutor any investigation into former White House aide Linda Tripp, who may have violated Maryland's strict wiretap law when she secretly taped conversations with Monica S. Lewinsky.

Yesterday, McLendon said she did the right thing in the case.

"I took the politics out of Tripp," McLendon said. "I ensured the public's confidence that that case would receive an objective and nonpartisan review, and I believe from what I have heard that people absolutely appreciated it."

Yesterday, McLendon received political support from the crowd gathered outside the courthouse. Present were Republican Party members, County Councilman Dennis R. Schrader and County Executive and GOP gubernatorial hopeful Charles I. Ecker.

Last year, Ecker and McLendon had a well-publicized wrangle over the controversial prosecution of two jail officers accused of beating inmates. Ecker said at the time the cases had no merit. Both officers were cleared of all charges.

Yesterday, Ecker praised McLendon's work, saying that she had to prosecute or run the risk of looking as though the county was covering something up.

A former police officer, McLendon, 46, worked in Howard's Office of Law before becoming state's attorney in 1994. She worked for six years as a prosecutor in the Baltimore and Howard County state's attorney's offices.

The Scranton, Pa., native recently instituted a volunteer program to help victims of domestic violence and "substantially beefed up our ability to make it a better system for victims," she said.

She said she has made fighting juvenile crime a priority. She argued -- unsuccessfully -- for Howard County's juvenile courts to be open to the public last summer, months before the doors to felony juvenile cases were opened.

McLendon also started a program called community justice, which assigns prosecutors to meet with community groups.

McCrone has vowed to make campaign issues of McLendon's decision on Tripp, the high prosecutor turnover rate and what he says is a low jury-trial conviction rate.

Yesterday, McCrone said that county residents "can't stand four more years of the same."

"Serious crimes like robbery are vexing businesses in the community, and they are not being effectively prosecuted," McCrone said. "If all she has to offer is more of the same, that gives me concern."

Without directly mentioning McCrone, McLendon appeared yesterday to answer challenges made about her record.

In her speech, McLendon couched the high turnover rate of prosecutors -- nearly half the office's 22 prosecutors have left since February 1996 -- as a sign of strength.

"I do ask prosecutors to do more than ever," McLendon said. "Some perhaps have felt uncomfortable with that rather fast pace and try new things."

Pub Date: 3/25/98

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