Cave switches to GOP, takes write-in route

Maryland Votes 2006

October 20, 2006|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN REPORTER

Howard County Sheriff - and one-time Republican - Charles "Chuck" Cave, who lost in the Democratic party primary to county police union president James F. Fitzgerald, has switched party affiliations back to the GOP and filed to run as a write-in candidate Nov. 7.

Cave's unusual moves are among several developments in the past few weeks of the election season that threaten to complicate the picture on Election Day, local officials say.

County election administrator Betty L. Nordaas said she has received about 6,000 absentee ballot requests - a third more than usual and enough to tip the outcome of close contests.

FOR THE RECORD - In a Howard Sun article Friday about Charles "Chuck" Cave switching party affiliations and filing as a write-in candiate for county sheriff, the margin of victory in the September's Democratic primary was incorrect. James F. Fitzgerald defeated Cave by 1,037 votes.
The Sun regrets the error.

In addition, board officials have been forced to move a longtime polling place from a high-rise apartment building for seniors and the handicapped in Columbia's Owen Brown village, which some building residents say will make it harder for them to vote.

"I think it just makes a lot more work - the absentee ballots in particular," said board chairman Guy L. Harriman.

In the sheriff's race, Cave's switch in affiliation took his opponents by surprise, though he has changed parties before. He ran as a Republican in 1998 when he first won the office, and then as a Democrat in 2002 when he won a second term. By switching back to the GOP, he is hoping to draw Republican support away from Tim Galt, the Republican nominee who Cave said hasn't been actively campaigning.

"I had a number of people [Republicans] come to me and voice their regrets that I didn't win and that they couldn't help me," Cave said. He's trying to convince Galt, a former Baltimore police detective, "that I have a much better chance of defeating Fitzgerald because at least I have the name recognition."

Cave said his party switches don't matter, because the sheriff's job is apolitical. In Howard County, the sheriff provides courthouse security and serves court papers.

He also said that the unusually large number of requests for absentee ballots could help him since those voters "are already writing in."

"It's a long shot, I acknowledge," he said, especially since the office of sheriff does not have a high profile.

Democratic nominee Fitzgerald, who defeated Cave by just over 200 votes in September, is not sure what to make of Cave's maneuvers.

"I'm bedazzled," Fitzgerald said. "I don't know how any [political] party would want to help him."

Galt said he's puzzled, too, and doesn't know what he will do to combat the write-in candidate.

"I don't know what to say," said Galt, who makes his living conducting national security background checks. Because it's so close to Election Day, his name will have to appear on the ballot even if he decides to withdraw.

Donald F. Norris, professor of public policy at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is skeptical about Cave's move.

"Write-in candidates hardly ever win," he said.

Cave said he's having a rally for supporters at a U.S. 40 restaurant tomorrow morning and sending out a mass mailing to alert voters of his campaign.

To choose a write-in using the new electronic voting machines, Nordaas said, voters must push a button labeled "write-in candidate" and then type the person's name on a keyboard. One other person, unsuccessful school board candidate Donald Marston, has filed to be a write-in.

Separately, Nordaas said she is upset about having to move the polling place from Owen Brown Place, a senior housing high-rise next to Owen Brown Village Center. Nearly 2,000 people from the building and surrounding neighborhoods are registered voters.

The polling place will be at the 50+ senior center at the nearby East Columbia library.

Bruce Innes, vice president for communications of Shelter Development, which manages the building, said the firm notified the board by letter after the 2004 election that, because of complaints about open access to the building on election days, residents were worried about security and that the polling place would not be welcome. He said the firm agreed to hold the primary election there this year because the board workers called at the last minute, seemingly unaware of the earlier letter.

Innes said Owen Brown Place has a van to ferry residents to vote and many own their own vehicles. "I'm sure anyone who wants to vote will get to vote," he said.

Nordaas said the board never received such a letter and that the issue surprised her.

"I just feel really terrible about this. I really wanted to beg and plead," Nordaas said. Election Board President Guy Harriman also tried to persuade the complex managers to change their minds, but they were adamant, she said.

Election officials have mailed notices showing the change in location to the precinct's voters.

Mary Sieger, 74, a 20-year resident of the high-rise building, said she is upset and angry about the move.

"We had no problem in security here. I've always voted in there," she said. larry.carson@baltsun.com

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