Two challengers will face Arundel judges in Nov.

Republicans win spots in the general election, unofficial returns show

March 04, 2004|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Three sitting Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judges and two challengers will square off in November, after voters narrowed the field from eight candidates in Tuesday's primary, according to unofficial returns.

Circuit Judges David S. Bruce, 56, of West River; Michele D. Jaklitsch, 45, of Annapolis; and Rodney C. Warren, 43, of Odenton, swept the Democratic ballot, guaranteeing them a place on the general election ballot.

On the Republican side, Paul G. Goetzke, 43, of Davidsonville and Paul F. Harris Jr., 55, of Pasadena were far ahead. Jaklitsch was behind them, with Scott A. Conwell, 39, of Crofton trailing by about 60 votes.

All eight candidates appeared on the Democratic and Republican ballots, with the top three from each advancing. Because Jaklitsch apparently edged out Conwell, one of the three Republicans on that party's ballot, only two Republicans seem likely to advance. Candidates are not identified by incumbency or party affiliation.

The tally is based on 184 of 185 precincts reporting because an election judge in Glen Burnie did not turn the results in to the election board on time. Also, about 2,000 absentee ballots are due to be opened this morning.

The fall race is expected to continue to have a partisan edge. The sitting judges, all Democrats, were appointed in 2002 by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, whose popularity waned in the county, and Goetzke and Harris are Republicans who have contended that the appointment process was politically skewed. The sitting judges argued that they have been fair and unbiased, while the Republicans painted the bench as lenient.

Republicans have made no secret of their desire to dismantle the only Circuit Court bench in the state that was appointed entirely by Glendening. The county has 10 circuit judges. This was the first contested judicial election in eight years, and it has been a quarter-century since voters knocked a sitting judge off the bench.

That Jaklitsch did well on both ballots did not surprise Dan Nataf, director of the Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College. She may have been no better known than the others - typically, voters are unfamiliar with judicial candidates - but she was the only woman running in a county where female candidates have traditionally fared well.

"It's a small effect, but it's a small solidarity effect: Women will vote for women when all things are equal," he said.

Similarly, Warren, as the only African-American on the court, may have had a constituency, he said.

Goetzke and Harris, Nataf said, campaigned unusually hard. Referring to Goetzke, he said, "You can't underestimate having nine brothers and sisters."

Trevor A. Kiessling Jr., a campaign coordinator for the sitting judges, said it appeared that Goetzke and Harris may have benefited from "single-shooting," in which voters cast a ballot for only one candidate, even though they could have voted for three.

"The five that have moved on are the ones that most of the legal community talked about," Kiessling said.

"In my opinion we did great on the Democratic side. They weren't even close to us," Bruce said.

Although the best thing for the sitting judges would have been to sweep both ballots and waltz unopposed into the general election, Bruce said that "realistically we knew that there was some real staunch Republican opposition."

However, he said that because of the potential for name confusion, he is also a bit relieved that Joseph F. Bruce, 55, of Arnold, a lawyer in private practice, lost. The men are not related. Thomas McCarthy Sr., 57, of Annapolis, who practices with his sons, was also knocked out of the running.

Goetzke, counsel to Annapolis' mayor, said he believed his tough-on-criminals message resonated with voters.

Harris, who has been in private practice for nearly 29 years, said he believes the chances of unseating a judge or two is good.

Conwell said that if uncounted absentee votes put him on the November ballot by giving him third place on the Republican side, he will withdraw.

"I am going to concentrate on going on to build my new law firm," he said.

Conwell recently opened a law practice, USA Law Inc., in Annapolis, focusing on homeland security, immigration and commercial issues.

More than $200,000 poured into the candidates' coffers for the primary. With the general election eight months off, this will be the most expensive judicial race the county has seen.

County Circuit Judge primaries

The top three vote-getters on each party ballot advance to the general election.

Candidate Votes Percentage

Republican ballot

Bruce, David S. 5,782 11.27

Bruce, Joseph F. 3,181 6.20

Conwell, Scott A. 6,231 12.15

Goetzke, Paul G. 10,748 20.95

Harris, Paul F. Jr. 8,970 17.49

Jaklitsch, Michele D. 6,291 12.27

McCarthy, Thomas Sr. 4,489 8.75

Warren, Rodney C. 5,599 10.92

Democratic ballot

Bruce, David S. 15225 17.50

Bruce, Joseph F. 6,077 6.98

Conwell, Scott A. 4,802 5.52

Goetzke, Paul G. 9,214 10.59

Harris, Paul F. Jr. 9,455 10.87

Jaklitsch, Michele D. 18,018 20.71

McCarthy, Thomas Sr. 7,728 8.88

Warren, Rodney C. 16,501 18.96

* Based on unofficial returns with 184 of 185 precincts reporting; doesn't include absentee ballots. Winning candidates shown in boldface

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