Former Calvert County sheriff Vonzell R. Ward, who resigned in midterm nearly four years ago amid an investigation by the state prosecutor's office into possible misconduct, is running for sheriff again -- and he's starting his campaign 21 months before the November 2006 election.
His early announcement is an unusual move in sheriff's contests, but Ward said it is necessary to rally his past supporters and thwart attacks from his political adversaries, who, he suspects, will dredge up past allegations.
Vonzell R. Ward, shown in 2002, said he is prepared to defend himself "against the scandalous rhetoric of past years." Below is Sheriff Mike Evans.
(James M. Thresher -- The Washington Post)
"While I am not looking forward to having old lies and rumors rekindled, I believe I am better prepared to defend myself against the scandalous rhetoric of past years," Ward said in a letter, dated Feb. 4, that he mailed to news organizations announcing his intention to run.
He said he has heard that several people are considering a run for sheriff. So another reason he announced his bid to head the 113-person agency early was to beat them to the punch, he said.
"The other guys are out there. I just need to get out there, too," Ward said, declining to name those he expects will become candidates. "I want people to know that I intend to run before they give their support to somebody else."
He said his early announcement comes with some risk: The "EOVs, the enemies of Vonzell, will have 21 more months to tell more lies about me."
Past accusations that Ward said he is ready to face include those that led to the investigation by the Office of the State Prosecutor. Ward was accused of participating in the stalking and harassing of the ex-girlfriend of a former Calvert County deputy who was his protege.
Although the investigation was dropped, it precipitated Ward's resignation in May 2001 in the middle of his second term.
Ward later said he resigned because he could not pay for a legal defense, because of a debilitating car accident with a drunk driver in 1981 that left him with physical problems and because he had lined up another job opportunity.
The resignation caught many of his deputies and local politicians by surprise. He was the first black sheriff in Calvert County. He was first elected in November 1994 as an independent and was reelected in 1998 as a Republican.
Ward, of North Beach, said in an interview Monday that he never struck a deal with the state prosecutor's office to resign if no charges were pressed. The statute of limitations has passed on potential charges arising from that investigation.
In summer 2002, Ward announced that he would run for sheriff again, as a Republican, but soon found himself at the center of another controversy.
That August, Calvert County authorities said they planned to charge Ward with criminal wrongdoing in sending an internal Sheriff's Office complaint to reporters. The complaint had been filed against a top commander in the Sheriff's Office, and the target of the complaint was the ex-girlfriend of a political rival who was also running for sheriff.
Ward, 48, lost the September 2002 primary. In February 2003, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in connection with sending the internal complaint to the media. He said he paid a $100 fine.