Judges' race still undecided

September 18, 2010|By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun

Whether the primary for Circuit Court judges decides the general election won't be clear until the second round of absentee ballots is tallied and an estimated 1,100 provisional ballots are examined and counted in the coming week.

The question is whether Ronald Jarashow, one of the two judges seeking to hold the positions to which they were appointed in January, will make it into the general election — or whether Alison Asti, the challenger, will knock Jarashow off the bench in the primary.

Laura Kiessling, the other appointee and the top vote-getter on both the Democratic and Republican ballots, definitely will be on the general election ballot as will Asti.

In what's considered a nonpartisan election, all judge candidates appear on both the Democratic and Republican primary ballots, but they show no party affiliation or incumbent note. The top two vote-getters on each ballot move on to the November general election.

On the Democratic ballot, only 504 votes separate Jarashow, who took almost 29 percent of the vote, and Asti, who captured almost 28 percent of the vote. Kiessling, with nearly 44 percent of the vote, clearly was the top vote-getter. Jarashow and Kiessling are Democrats.

On the Republican ballot, Kiessling, with about 38 percent of the vote, and lawyer Asti, a registered Republican who captured almost 37 percent, are the clear victors. Jarashow garnered nearly 28 percent.

Jarashow had a longtime private practice, mostly civil law and specializing in business interests, though he is also a former attorney for the county's police union. Kiessling spent 19 years as an Anne Arundel County prosecutor before her judicial appointment.

The sitting judges pointed to Asti's shortage of courtroom trial experience and said that, because she did not seek appointment to the bench, she was not vetted by lawyer organizations and the Judicial Nominating Commission, which is controlled by appointees of the governor, in this case, Democrat Martin O'Malley. Asti, however, said she is knowledgable about a number of business-related aspects of law from private practice and her work, including as the head of the Maryland Stadium Authority, and due to politics felt she would not have stood a chance of winning an appointment.

Unseating a sitting judge has a recent precedent in conservative-leaning Anne Arundel County. In 2004, Paul Goetzke and Paul Harris Jr. pushed two judges off the bench in a backlash against then Gov. Parris N. Glendening. Out of ire at a bench entirely chosen by Glendening, critics portrayed his appointees as lenient outsiders. His appointees had previously lost judicial elections in Baltimore and Howard counties.

The updated tally made no difference in two other contested courthouse primaries. The Republicans seeking to retain their jobs as judges of the Orphans Court — Judith Duckett, Nancy Phelps and Gordon Witherspoon — won over challenger Thomas Rice. And in the Republican primary for register of wills, incumbent Lauren Parker garnered more than three times the number of votes as her challenger, Roger Berwanger.

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

To see the current vote count in Anne Arundel County, go to aacounty.org/Elections/index.cfm, and click on 2010 Gubernatorial Primary Election Results

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