Civility reigns in race for prosecutor

Campaigning also quiet among other candidates for courthouse offices

Howard County

October 29, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

If you didn't know better, you might swear that rival Howard County state's attorney candidates Timothy J. McCrone and Robert R. Tousey were friends, not adversaries.

With a week to go before the election, McCrone, a Democrat, and Tousey, a Republican, have barely taken each other on, offering only the barest of slights against each other as they campaign:

"I look a little more outside the box than Tim," Tousey said.

McCrone said, "Unfortunately, Tousey has not been involved here in Howard County in the criminal justice system. ... In 21 years of working down here, I'd never met him before."

It's a stark contrast to the 1998 race for the job, when McCrone criticized State's Attorney Marna L. McLendon, who is not seeking re-election, for everything from high turnover in her office to her decision to turn the Linda R. Tripp wiretap case over to state prosecutors.

McCrone nearly unseated the incumbent, losing to McLendon by 94 votes.

"It's certainly been a different campaign than four years ago," Tousey said.

The campaign for top prosecutor is not the only one to register barely a blip this election season. Each of the other courthouse races has featured relatively quiet campaigning, with incumbents running unopposed or against lesser-known opponents who have attempted to point out perceived weaknesses through campaign literature or talks with the news media.

Candidates for state's attorney, sheriff and clerk of the Circuit Court say they have attended forums - even when not invited - put up signs and handed out literature.

Three Republicans and two Democrats are also running for the three Orphans' Court judgeships. All three incumbents, Republicans Charles M. Coles Jr. and Joyce Pope and Democrat Sherae M. McNeal, are running for re-election. Democrat Paul L. Bush and Republican Eva-Mae Lloyd are also seeking the seats.

Register of Wills Kay K. Hartleb, a Republican, has enjoyed the relative peace that comes from running unopposed.

She has campaigned to support other candidates, but she said her situation has been a "real relief" and a contrast to her past four races, in all of which she had opponents.

"I get a free ride this time," she said.

State's attorney

In the race for Howard state's attorney, McCrone's presence was always a given. His near-win in 1998 seemed the perfect setup for a strong run this year.

Less certain for months was whom the Republican Party would find to oppose him. McLendon opted out in December, and the party's choice remained uncertain for months. Tousey announced his candidacy a week before the filing deadline this summer.

The contest pits McCrone, a former Howard prosecutor who specialized in drug cases and is now in private practice in Ellicott City, against Tousey, who has spent his career in private practice and said his caseload is about 30 percent criminal.

McCrone, 49, who has represented the county police union since shortly after leaving the state's attorney's office in 1991, said he would be a hands-on administrator and would re-create the drug prosecution team that was in place before McLendon took office in 1994.

"I think it's important that vice and narcotics officers in the Police Department work in a coherent way with prosecutors who are tuned in to the problems that the ... officers are dealing with," he said.

Tousey, 44, an associate with Goodman, Meagher & Enoch in Baltimore, said he would aggressively pursue cases and make sure his office pushed for rehabilitative components in sentencing.

"Obviously, as state's attorney, we have to prosecute cases ... but we really want it to be one trip through the system," he said.

Sheriff

When Sheriff Charles M. Cave made an early decision to switch parties - changing his affiliation from Republican to Democrat in August last year - Republicans vowed to find a candidate to oppose him.

But it was not until after the traditional filing deadline and with a little more than an hour until the filing deadline for party-appointed candidates in July that Republican Edward Armanas entered the race.

Armanas, a car salesman and former military policeman, said he has been an active campaigner who wants the job. In his campaign literature, he takes on Cave for an error by a sheriff's employee that led to the deletion of Richard Wayne Spicknall's name from a computer database that would have prevented Spicknall from buying a gun.

Spicknall later killed his two young children.

"We, as Howard County citizens, deserve better. We need to feel safe," said Armanas, a 58-year-old Waverly Woods resident.

Cave, who acknowledged after the killings that a longtime civilian employee in his office had made a mistake, said the result was more training for employees and more oversight.

Cave, 65, of Ellicott City, points to his four decades of law enforcement experience. He retired as a Maryland State Police detective sergeant in 1990 and joined the Sheriff's Department as second in command. He was elected sheriff in 1998.

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