Republicans prep for Nov.

GOP's Cochran faces uphill climb in race for sheriff

Maryland Votes 2006

September 24, 2006|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun reporter

Former state trooper Norman R. Cochran hung on to his narrow lead in the race for the Republican sheriff's nomination last week and will take less than a quarter of the total votes cast into a tough matchup in the general election.

Cochran is likely to face an uphill battle against Democrat L. Jesse Bane and might have made his bid more difficult by not attending the final deputies union meeting before its members decide whom to support in the general election. Since its inception in 1989, the union has backed every successful candidate for sheriff.

According to deputies, Cochran was invited along with Bane and Republican Joe Price, who at the time trailed Cochran by 88 votes, to discuss their platforms at a Monday night meeting. Cochran confirmed he would attend, but bowed out, noting a work conflict.

Though he e-mailed his responses to 11 questions, the union board voted not to read them, a board member said. They considered it an unfair advantage since Bane and Price would have to respond to follow-up questions by union members.

Cochran said he was given little notice of the event, but that he previously appeared before the union and stayed awake past midnight drafting answers to the deputies' recent questions.

"I apologized that I couldn't make it, but I didn't want to lose my job," Cochran said. "There's so many events lately - you're not gonna make them all."

After all absentee and provisional ballots were counted Wednesday, Cochran edged Price by 109 votes out of 16,700. Cochran captured 23.5 percent of the vote to Price's 22.9, and the second- and third-place candidates finished within 1,000 votes. There were six Republican candidates.

Cochran likely will have difficulty persuading some of his Republican challengers to endorse him. Their campaigns largely consisted of railing against the current leadership, which is behind Cochran, though Cochran's supporters have been meeting with the candidates in hopes of making them a part of his effort against Bane.

Though Cochran's primary campaign lacked specifics of how he would combat crime, he said that he would lay out his platform on his Web site in the coming weeks.

The union asked its members last week whom it should throw its significant manpower resources and $33,000 campaign treasury behind, with ballots due this week. Their votes will give the group a clear candidate to support with six weeks until the general election.

Cochran, who ran for County Council president in 2002 and lost in the primary, raised more than $38,000 - the most among the Republican candidates - but had just $3,000 cash on hand with two weeks to go before the primary. He spent about $21,000 on TV and radio ads and direct-mail literature.

In contrast, Bane raised about $60,000 and still had $35,000 as of Sept. 1, though half of the total raised came from loans taken out by the candidate. In political circles, observers are buzzing over Bane's bipartisan support and are calling him the favorite - an unusual position for a Democrat in Harford County.

On election night, Cochran held a party at his campaign headquarters, a defunct gas station in downtown Bel Air. As Sheriff R. Thomas Golding and Col. Howard Walter munched on snacks and listened to a disc jockey play country music, Cochran turned his attention toward Bane.

"Bane has the advantage? He ought to - he's worked the command for quite some time," said Robert L. Oatman, 59, Cochran's campaign spokesman and friend. "If he has a strategy, he should've implemented it by now."

Bane said he was involved with major initiatives until the day he retired in April. "I didn't advance to the rank of major for no reason," he said.

Echoing statewide Democratic candidates, Bane has said he would push for new legislation to prosecute gangs as organized crime units, while Cochran has discussed improving the agency's training programs and bolstering recruiting.

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