Rivals distinguished by work experience

Two in state's attorney's race took divergent paths

Maryland Votes 2006

September 15, 2006|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,sun reporter

With the primary election behind them, the two men vying for the job as Baltimore County state's attorney are gearing up for a November contest that pits a former county prosecutor who has also handled plaintiffs' litigation and criminal defense work against a career prosecutor who makes no apologies for the fact that he has done only that for nearly 20 years.

Stephen Bailey, the Republican candidate, and Scott D. Shellenberger, the Democrat, were hired by longtime Baltimore County State's Attorney Sandra A. O'Connor as law clerks within four years of each other - Shellenberger in 1982 and Bailey in 1986. Both men were in law school at the time.

Since then, their career paths have diverged.

Bailey rose through the ranks until being named one of O'Connor's two deputies five years ago. O'Connor, who is retiring after 32 years in the top prosecutor's job, has thrown her support behind Bailey's candidacy.

Shellenberger left O'Connor's office after 11 years, joining the law firm of Peter G. Angelos. There, he has represented people stricken with cancer after their exposure to toxic chemicals, sued Exxon for allegedly tainting the wells of Maryland residents and defended Orioles players in minor criminal cases.

Bailey, 43, of Towson did not face an opponent in the Republican primary.

Democratic primary

Shellenberger, 47, of Parkville won a primary race against Stephen L. Miles, 63, a longtime personal injury lawyer who has earned millions over the years and a measure of fame with television ads that beckoned potential clients, "Let's talk about it."

The contest between Shellenberger and Miles had grown bitter in recent weeks.

While Shellenberger questioned his opponent's qualifications and aired radio ads that described him as a lawyer to call when sirens sound at 3 a.m., Miles accused his adversary - at candidate forums, in radio ads and during newspaper interviews - of sending nasty and misleading campaign materials to county Democrats.

"He barely beat me with the most dishonest campaign on the face of the earth," said Miles, who took nearly 46 percent of the vote in Tuesday's primary. "It just goes to show you that without the smear campaign, I would have destroyed him."

Shellenberger has defended his mailings as being "completely accurate."

Miles said he intends to stay involved in the election - by supporting Bailey, the Republican candidate.

"All said, I feel good that all those people voted for me," he said. "The one guy left in the race who has integrity is Steve Bailey."

Work experience

Both Bailey and Shellenberger emphasize their work experience as reasons why voters should choose them in November.

Bailey says that while his opponent can talk about what he would do upon returning to the county state's attorney's office, Bailey can tell voters about what he has done there.

"There's something to be said for having done the job for 20 years and not just be coming back to it," he told an audience at a candidates' forum in Randallstown last week.

Shellenberger acknowledges that he has not spent his entire career as a prosecutor. But, he says, that's a good thing.

As an assistant state's attorney, he prosecuted sex offenders, career criminals and death penalty murder cases, Shellenberger told voters at the candidates' forum.

"Then, what I did was go somewhere else and learn something else," he said. "What I bring to you in November is balance - balance that is not there."

The race is also expected to focus on the candidates' approach to the death penalty - one of few issues on which they disagree and something for which O'Connor's office has gained national attention.

State studies have found that O'Connor seeks the death penalty more frequently than any of her colleagues in other Maryland jurisdictions. The result has been a death row that is disproportionately populated by men convicted of killings that occurred in Baltimore County.

Bailey said he would continue his boss' policy of seeking the death penalty in nearly every eligible murder case - a policy, he says, that ensures a nondiscriminatory application of capital punishment.

Shellenberger, however, says that he would evaluate the facts of each case individually before determining whether to seek the ultimate sanction in eligible cases.

Campaign funds

Both candidates have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for their campaigns.

Bailey has collected about $215,000 in contributions and had nearly $111,000 on hand by a Sept. 1 campaign finance report filing deadline.

Shellenberger's Sept. 1 report has not been posted on the state elections board Web site. He said a computer glitch is to blame. A state elections board official could not be reached to comment.

A copy of the report sent to The Sun by Shellenberger's campaign indicated that he has raised about $236,000 and had nearly $78,000 on hand by the Sept. 1 filing deadline.

jennifer.mcmenamin @baltsun.com

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