Councilman decides against a run for Balto. County state's attorney

However, District Court judge decides to enter campaign to succeed Sandra A. O'Connor


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August 31, 2005|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County Councilman Kevin Kamenetz said yesterday that he has decided not to seek the seat being vacated by longtime State's Attorney Sandra A. O'Connor next year - and a District Court judge with nearly 15 years on the bench said he will.

Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Ruxton Democrat who had been considering a run for O'Connor's job since her announcement this summer that she will retire at the end of her eighth term, pointed to family considerations in explaining his decision to run for re-election instead. With the councilman no longer a factor in the race, District Judge G. Darrell Russell Jr., 63, who unsuccessfully ran for state's attorney more than two decades ago, said yesterday that his candidacy is assured.

Although he had wanted to run for the seat, the judge, also a Democrat, said he also knew that a "bruising primary" would not be in either of their best interests. The two had talked about their mutual interest in O'Connor's job before Kamenetz made his decision official yesterday, Russell said.

Kamenetz's announcement takes the most politically experienced and financially best-backed contender out of the equation as candidates begin to vie for a seat that has not seen a contested election since 1982, when Russell lost to O'Connor.

But the councilman said that family considerations - he has a wife and two sons, ages 4 and 20 months - as well as a commitment to his clients in his private law practice and to the district he has represented for 11 years led to his decision.

"It is a balancing act, and you have to recognize the needs of your family first," said Kamenetz, 47. "That is what's important. I think I'm a better councilman because I have that perspective, and I think serving on the council is a job I do well."

It was unclear yesterday how the campaign for O'Connor's seat will shape up. O'Connor's favored successor, Deputy State's Attorney Stephen Bailey, a Republican like his boss, has announced his plans to run for the seat. Until Russell confirmed he is planning a run, no one else had stepped forward. "I never expected the seat to go uncontested," Bailey said.

Russell, who has four children between ages 12 and 18, said O'Connor's presence kept him from running for the seat again after his 1982 loss. "I didn't think I could beat Sandy O'Connor unless I raised lots of money," he said. "I thought she was doing a fairly credible job of running the office."

Russell said financial considerations will keep him on the bench until early next year. He said he won't be able to raise money for a campaign until he steps down. But he said he is ready to mount a challenge for the state's attorney's seat even though it means giving up the security of a District Court judgeship he has held since December 1990.

"You have to take a chance in life now and then," he said. "You can only succeed greatly if you're willing to fail greatly."

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