State Digest

STATE DIGEST

December 13, 2006

Recount confirms Dwyer's victory

A hand recount of more than 3,000 paper ballots in a hotly contested Anne Arundel County legislative race confirmed conservative Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr.'s razor-thin victory over Del. Joan Cadden, election officials said yesterday.

Dwyer, a Glen Burnie Republican, defeated Cadden, a Brooklyn Park Democrat, by 25 votes for the third and final spot in a three-member legislative district representing District 31, officials said. Dwyer received 17,558 votes to Cadden's 17,533 votes.

Cadden had challenged the official result, which gave Dwyer a 28-vote edge.

It took county officials about seven hours to manually tally the more than 3,000 absentee and provisional ballots cast in the northern Anne Arundel district.

The result effectively ends the race for Cadden, a four-term Democrat who chaired the House capital budget subcommittee. She sought a recount last week after a record number of paper ballots wiped out her 737-vote lead over Dwyer.

"I'm glad that this is over," said Dwyer, a social conservative who has stressed his opposition to gay marriage and abortion. "The main reason: The public was very confused. Here we are a month [after the election] and it was unclear as to who the winner was. After today, I hope that is clarified."

Dwyer, who had previously declared that his goal was to oust Cadden from office, said both candidates watched the recount at the elections annex in Glen Burnie. He said Cadden did not offer her concession or congratulations. Cadden could not be reached for comment yesterday evening.

Because the margin of victory was within 31 votes - equivalent to one-tenth of 1 percent of votes cast - the state will pay the estimated $5,000 cost of the recount. Cadden had put up a $10,000 bond in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court to cover the cost.

Phillip McGowan

Montgomery County

Council supports gas-tax increase

The Montgomery County Council approved a resolution yesterday supporting an increase in Maryland's 23.5-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax to pay for highway and mass transit projects.

The unanimous action by the newly elected council follows a public call for a gas tax increase by County Executive Isiah Leggett. Neither the council nor Leggett said how much the tax should rise, though Leggett earlier supported an increase in the 10-cent to 12-cent range.

Support for the increase reflects Montgomery's serious traffic congestion problems. The state gas tax has not been raised since 1992.

Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley has neither backed nor ruled out a gas tax increase. Any proposal to raise gas taxes would likely face stiff opposition from rural legislators, whose constituents often must drive greater distances than urban residents.

Michael Dresser

Maryland

Coalition faults crime-lab oversight

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s recent executive order forming an oversight panel for state crime labs falls short because it lacks a plan to increase funding or set standards for the facilities, a coalition of groups involved in the criminal justice system said yesterday.

The Maryland Office of the Public Defender, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and the Maryland Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project called on Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley to reform the standards and oversight of the state's eight crime laboratories. The labs need more funding and accountability, and higher standards would help increase federal funding, representatives of the groups said yesterday.

"The fox is still guarding the henhouse," said Cindy Boersma, legislative director for the ACLU of Maryland. "Despite repeated calls for standards and independent enforcement, despite wrongful convictions based in part upon problematic crime lab evidence, and despite prosecutions jeopardized by poor forensics, Maryland has failed to address the real issues."

A 2004 federal law requires independent crime lab oversight, and without it, Maryland is not eligible for certain types of federal funding, the groups said. The groups said they are drafting legislation for next year's General Assembly session for a stronger oversight structure.

Henry Fawell, a spokesman for the governor, said the executive order issued last week "will lead to the highest quality-control procedures, modern equipment and technology, and more successful investigations of crime."

Sun Staff

Frostburg

Professor faces child-porn charge

A longtime Frostburg State University foreign-languages professor has been charged with possessing child pornography after police allegedly found prohibited images on a computer he had turned over to a school shop for repairs.

MacGregor O'Brien, 57, of Frostburg faces 13 counts of possessing child pornography, according to court documents. A trial is scheduled for March 13 in Allegany County District Court. Neither O'Brien nor his attorney, Cumberland lawyer Michael A. Noonan, could be reached for comment yesterday.

O'Brien was arrested Saturday and released Monday after posting $30,000 bond, according to court records. In accordance with University System of Maryland policy, he has been suspended with pay and barred from campus pending resolution of the case, a school spokeswoman said.

Associated Press

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