Sheriff mounts write-in effort

After losing primary as a Democrat, incumbent Cave switches to the GOP

Maryland votes 2006

November 03, 2006|By Tyrone Richardson | Tyrone Richardson,sun reporter

Howard County Sheriff Charles "Chuck" Cave is not leaving office quietly.

After losing the Democratic Party primary in September to James F. Fitzgerald, the county police union president, by 1,037 votes, Cave, the 69-year-old incumbent, switched to the Republican Party and registered as a write-in candidate for Tuesday's general election.

"This is a tough way to go, but I truly believe I have the better qualifications than those two guys, and I know I can do a better job," Cave said.

Since his write-in candidacy began, Cave has added "write-in" to his signs and is relying on mailings and word of mouth.

Cave believes he can take votes away from GOP nominee Timothy Galt, 37, of Marriottsville, a former Baltimore police detective who does security background checks as a federal government contractor. In fact, Cave asked Galt to consider dropping out of the race.

"There were discussions that did occur, but my allegiance remains to the Republican Party as their nominee," Galt said.

This is not the first time Cave has switched parties. He ran as a Republican when he won office in 1998 and switched to the Democratic Party in 2002 when he earned his second-term. Galt and Fitzgerald have criticized Cave for his latest jump. Fitzgerald called Cave's action a "desperate attempt" to keep his job.

"I ran as a Democrat, and I beat him in the primary. That should have been the end of it," Fitzgerald said. "I should just be taking on a Republican candidate."

Cave said some Republicans asked him to re-enter the race, adding that political affiliation should not be a factor.

"My office is not a political office. Yes, we have to pick a political party in order to run, but there is no politics in that office, and we don't make political decisions," Cave said.

Fitzgerald and Galt have criticized what they call a lack of technology and training resources for sheriff's office personnel under Cave's leadership.

If elected, Fitzgerald said, he would like to enhance computer technology in the department. In addition, he would like to increase the department's training with the county police, particularly using the county's police and fire department training facility in Marriottsville, which is under construction.

Galt said he has not targeted a specific area that needs improvement, but he said employee morale and court security could be improved.

"It's the big picture," he said.

Cave rejected accusations that his department is not up to date with the latest technology and training. He said the agency is continually training personnel and updating hardware, including new X-ray machines and metal detectors.

"My goals have and remain what they have always been -- my priorities are the security of the courthouse and the security of the people who visit the courthouse," Cave said.

In other courthouse elections:

Democrat Leslie Cale, a 49-year-old Circuit Court reporter, is challenging longtime Republican Circuit Court Clerk Margaret Rappaport for her seat. Both are from Ellicott City.

Cale said that her more than 20 years of experience in the court system makes her a stronger candidate than Rappaport, who has served as clerk for 16 years.

Cale said that if elected she would increase technology and supervision of employees within the clerks system.

Rappaport said voters should choose her because of her proven leadership skills. She said she has decentralized the office to increase space in the court and has instituted programs to increase electronic filing.

If re-elected, Rappaport said, she will "continue fine-tuning what I have accomplished over the 16 years."

In the Orphans' Court judges' race, four candidates, including a team of three incumbents with a combination of more than 30 years of experience on the panel, are vying for three seats.

Republican Charles M. Coles Jr., a member for 16 years, Democrat Sharae M. McNeal, a member for eight years, and Republican Joyce C. Pope, a member for 12 years, said they work well together. The judges -- Coles is from Lisbon, McNeal from Clarksville and Pope from North Laurel -- preside over disputes involving wills and do not need a law degree.

That legal experience is what Jay Fred Cohen, 73, of Columbia, is hoping will work to his advantage.

Cohen, a private attorney, said his background in law and litigation gives him better insight than the experience of the incumbents.

"To have somebody of my qualifications would help speed up the process on rulings," he said. "I see things differently; I see them better."

Coles, chairman of the panel for eight years, said the group of incumbents works well, and splitting them up would cause negative results.

"We're good because the three of us have gelled well together and we are very efficient," Coles said. "People who appear before us get the answer they need in timely manner."

In the county register of wills race, 20-year incumbent and Republican Kay K. Hartleb is being challenged by Democrat Lawrence M. Blickman.

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