- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Winning the Democratic nomination for state governor looked like a sure thing for Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Whether she would be able to cast her own ballot, though, was briefly in doubt yesterday.

A Democratic poll judge in Towson, Md., berated journalists and Mrs. Townsend for being disruptive yesterday morning at Ridge Ruxton School, then tried to stop her from voting.

"You may not have people photographing you while you vote," Omar Pulliam, the judge told Mrs. Townsend. "So please don't vote, do not vote."

After her staff protested, the judge walked away.

"One of the most important parts of protecting our nation's commitment to fair and open elections is access to the elections process by the news media," said Mrs. Townsend in a statement. "On election day, it's important that we review and remember our commitment to open elections, and the news media's important role in that open elections process."

Although elections results had not been tallied by press time, Maryland gubernatorial candidates Mrs. Townsend and Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Republican, were expected to easily defeat their party opponents to face each other in what is likely to be one of the nation's most closely watched gubernatorial elections in November.

Mrs. Townsend and running mate Charles R. Larson faced off against Robert Raymond Fustero and Linda J. Atkins. Mr. Ehrlich and his running mate, Maryland Republican Party Chairman Michael S. Steele, ran against Ross Z. Pierpont and Sidney J. Burns, and James J. Sheridan and Kathleen Sheridan Linzey, a father-daughter team.

Crusty Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, Democrat, is also expected to defeat challenger John T. Willis, secretary of state for Maryland in a bitterly contested race to face one of two relatively unknown Republican challengers in November.

Mr. Schaefer, the former mayor of Baltimore, faced serious opposition in a primary election for the first time in 16 years when he ran for governor in 1986. He served as governor of Maryland from 1987 to 1995, and was elected as Maryland's 32nd comptroller in November of 1998.

Mr. Willis, of Westminster, has been secretary of state under Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Democrat, since 1995, and was a top aide for Mr. Glendening when Mr. Glendening was Prince George's County executive.

The race between Mr. Schaefer, of Baltimore, and Mr. Willis, of Westminster, is being closely watched in the state because it is essentially a battle of wills between two prominent state power brokers. Mr. Willis is a protege of Mr. Glendening who paid for negative radio advertisements that essentially called Mr. Schaefer a bigot. Mr. Schaefer has also said publicly that he thinks Mr. Glendening with whom he has a long-running public feud put Mr. Willis up to running against him in an attempt to oust him. Mr. Schaefer called Mr. Willis "a nice man" yesterday but said the current governor is "the most vindictive man I guess I've ever known."

In the other race for statewide office, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., Democrat, the longest-serving attorney general in recent Maryland history, ran unopposed in the primary for his fifth consecutive term. He will face either Republican Jeffrey N. Pritzker or Edwin Mac Vaugh in the Nov. 5 general election.

Maryland residents yesterday also went to the polls to choose nominees for eight congressional races around the state.

The most prominent Democratic primary race pits state Sen. Chris Van Hollen against Delegate Mark K. Shriver, former Clinton administration trade official Ira S. Shapiro, Anthony Jaworski and lawyer Deborah Vollmer who has run a low-key campaign, and is not expected to be a big factor. The winner will take on Constance A. Morella, an eight-term Republican, in what will be a closely watched race nationally.

Every seat in the Maryland General Assembly is up for grabs this year, even as many districts' incumbents went uncontested. Redistricting earlier this year also added seats and rearranged boundaries that may threaten longtime incumbents or knock off recently appointed newcomers if they face challengers with greater name recognition such as in District 22 where Tawanna P. Gaines faces prominent state Democratic Central Committee member David Merkowitz for one of three seats.

Prince George's candidates fought the most fierce race for county executive in Maryland, with five candidates vying to replace County Executive Wayne K. Curry, ousted by term limits. Front-runner Jack Johnson was expected to beat County Council member M.H. Jim Estepp, the Rev. Anthony Muse, Delegate Rushern Baker and former Glendening aide Major Riddick in what has already promised to be a close and unpredictable race with almost a third of county voters undecided.

In Montgomery County, County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, Democrat, is easily expected to defeat County Council member William E. Legat, Democrat, for his third term. Montgomery County has no term limits for county offices.

County residents also went to the polls to decide whether to retain Republican incumbents Howard A. Denis, Potomac-Bethesda, for District 1 and Nancy H. Dacek, upcounty, for District 2 of the County Council.

Voters in Montgomery County also decided among five at-large candidates for Montgomery County school board primaries and three candidates in the District 3 primary.

Voter turnout was light in Maryland yesterday, according to election officials. Patricia Blevins, a chief judge at Oakland Terrace Elementary School in Silver Spring's District 18 said she had counted 224 voters by midafternoon and didn't expect many more during the evening.

Liz Boch contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire reports.


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