McLendon initiates TV campaign, is criticized for including Bounds School board chief appears in ads with state's attorney

October 02, 1998|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,SUN STAFF

An article in Friday's Howard County edition of The Sun incorrectly described the conviction rate of the Howard County state's attorney's office. About 60 percent of the defendants whose cases go to trial are convicted. Other cases, which account for the majority of criminal cases, are typically resolved through plea bargains.

The Sun regrets the error.

Howard County State's Attorney Marna L. McLendon has started running her first cable television ads, drawing criticism from some political consultants for showing a local, nonpartisan leader taking an active role in her re-election campaign.

In two of the 30-second commercials, which began airing Sunday, McLendon, a Republican, is shown talking to school board Chairman Stephen Bounds about being involved in the community. Bounds has worked closely with McLendon to establish a crime-prevention program for county students. McLendon is running for re-election against Democratic political novice Tim McCrone.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

"With Bounds, who holds an elected, nonpartisan seat, sitting in her ads, that's clearly disappointing, and it makes him cross the line," said Robert Ardinger, an adjunct political science professor at Howard Community College. "[Bounds] is supposed to be in a nonpolitical position on the school board. It's even worse when you see somebody clearly endorsing a candidate."

McLendon disagrees. She said she asked Bounds and his children, who are shown with her in the commercial -- along with Janet and Del Corneick, who is head of the African American Republican Club in Columbia -- to be in a political ad and they agreed. "[Bounds] does run for public office, so I never thought twice about it," McLendon said yesterday.

"We focused on victims, juveniles, being involved in the community and being tough on crime," she said of the ads.

"She borrowed my kids, and I just happened to be there," Bounds said of his appearance in the ads.

In one of the ads, McLendon talks about her efforts to get prosecutors out from behind their desks and into such communities as Columbia's Wilde Lake and Harper's Choice villages to deal with "vandalism and other crimes."

McLendon is shown in another ad with Republican Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who represents Baltimore County, as he calls her "not just a tough prosecutor, but a protector of victims."

In a third ad, McLendon claims she has locked up repeat offenders -- "another promise kept."

The six ads, which cost about $2,500 to produce, put McLendon ahead of McCrone, her Democratic opponent, in getting her message across the county, political analysts say. Some have criticized McCrone, an Ellicott City attorney and former assistant state's attorney, for not launching a campaign more forcefully. They say he has been focusing too much on an "inside Ellicott City campaign."

"[McCrone's] new to this political game," said Dan Dotson, president of the Columbia Democratic Club. "I don't think he's real sure of how to get his message out to people."

Roger Caplan, a media consultant, said: "By getting her ads out first, as the incumbent, McLendon's raising the profile on the state's attorney race. If McCrone doesn't counter that quickly, it's going to be a tough race to win."

McCrone, who has raised about $17,000 compared with McLendon's $22,000 as of August campaign finance reports, admits he comes to the race with no political experience and is learning, but he says he will make a "full-court press" in the next month. He plans to start $4,000-worth of commercials next week.

McCrone has made campaign issues of McLendon's decision to pass off an investigation of former White House aide Linda R. Tripp to state prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli, the high turnover rate of prosecutors in her office and what he says is an embarrassingly low jury trial conviction rate.

In the past 28 months, 11 prosecutors -- half the staff -- have left the office, a growing sign of tensions between McLendon and her staff, McCrone claims. He has noted statistics that show just over half the defendants prosecuted are convicted.

"The truth is that prosecutors need to be spending more time behind their desks preparing for trials so they can win," McCrone said. "If you don't win the cases where people are victimized, you are victimizing them again by losing the case."

Pub Date: 10/02/98

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