Early results look good for sitting judges

3 appointees of 2002 face 5 challengers in primaries

Election 2004

Anne Arundel

March 03, 2004|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Three embattled Anne Arundel County judicial appointees were fighting to keep their $119,600-a-year posts yesterday, as they tried to fend off five challengers who saw an opportunity to begin dismantling the only Circuit Court bench appointed entirely by former Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

The highly competitive race was the most expensive judicial contest the county has seen, with the eight candidates raising more than $200,000 before the primary.

With 22 of the county's 185 precincts reporting as of late last night, the sitting judges appeared to be clearly ahead of their challengers on the Democratic primary ballot.

On the Republican side, Paul G. Goetzke, special counsel to the Annapolis mayor, and Paul F. Harris Jr., a lawyer in private practice, had pulled ahead.

Behind them were the sitting judges and past congressional candidate Scott A. Conwell - a group of four separated by slightly more than a percentage point. Goetzke, Harris and Conwell are registered Republicans, though no party affiliation is on either ballot.

If that trend holds, the sitting judges would have opposition in the general election.

In a primary where few voters were expected to cast ballots and where name recognition was low, even among sitting judges, the outcome was unpredictable.

All of the candidates, incumbents and challengers alike, ran on both the Democrat and Republican primary ballots, where they were not identified by party affiliation. The top three vote-getters on each ballot will move ahead to the November race.

The quirky ballot process means that anywhere from three to six candidates would advance to the general election. It also means a registered Democrat could win on the Republican side, and a registered Republican could lead the winners on Democrat ballot.

The sitting judges, who began serving in 2002 and were seeking 15-year terms, are David S. Bruce, 56, of West River; Michele D. Jaklitsch, 45, of Annapolis; and Rodney C. Warren, 43, of Odenton.

Because Warren is the only African-American judge on the Circuit bench, many minorities in the county were attuned to the race. Jaklitsch is one of three women on the bench, which had neither a minority nor a female judge until 1995.

Two of the challengers came into the race with campaign experience. Conwell was an unsuccessful GOP candidate for Congress, and Thomas McCarthy Sr. lost a state delegate race.

The relatively conservative county has 46 percent of the affiliated voters registered with the GOP.

The three Republican challengers - Conwell, 39, of Crofton; Goetzke, 43, of Davidsonville; and Harris, 55, of Pasadena - labeled the appointment process as skewed against Republicans during the Glendening administration.

McCarthy, 67, of Annapolis, is in private practice with three sons.

Observers wondered if voters would get confused by the first two candidates on the alphabetically arranged ballot. The first was Judge Bruce, and the second was Joseph F. Bruce, 55, of Arnold. They are not related.

The last time Anne Arundel voters knocked a sitting judge off the bench was in 1976.

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