Maryland Transportation Authority Police Chief Gary W. McLhinney, who had said that he was considering running for sheriff of Harford County, told agency employees in an e-mail yesterday he has decided not to seek the job.
"I have decided to stand by my commitment made three years ago to the men and women of the Maryland Transportation Authority, to the Governor and to the citizens of the State of Maryland, and will remain in my present position as Chief of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police," he said in the e-mail.
News that McLhinney would not seek the post set off a chain reaction over the weekend, as Harford's Republican hierarchy worked to find a replacement candidate.
The choice didn't fall very far from McLhinney. Norman R. Cochran, 59, the former president of the county Republican Club and a career development manager for the MdTA, announced yesterday at a Republican Party golf fundraiser that he would seek the position.
The Sheriff's Office is the county's primary police agency, and the position of sheriff is equivalent to police chief.
Three others have filed or announced their intentions to run for sheriff: Maj. L. Jesse Bane, a 34-year veteran of the sheriff's office who recently stepped down to run as a Democrat, and two others with no prior law enforcement experience, Republican Dave Tritt and Democrat Terry W. Serago.
McLhinney, the longtime president of the Baltimore police union, confirmed he was interested in running for sheriff March 4 after the abrupt withdrawal from the race of Sheriff R. Thomas Golding, who said the tenor of the campaign had become "nasty."
An anonymous complaint to the county election board that Golding's staff had been intimidating employees into supporting his campaign was forwarded to the state prosecutor's office for review, according to election officials.
Yesterday, McLhinney said that after careful consideration he decided that he had "unfinished business" with the agency. He was appointed to his post by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. after the city police union endorsed Ehrlich in 2002 - the first time the union had supported a Republican in three decades.