It has been a dozen years since Kathryn Diggs Williams' career as County Council president ended at the Montgomery County courhouse when a three-judge panel tossed her out of her job. Now William is trying to rebuild her political career and return to that same court house, this time as the county's top criminal prosecutor.
The Republican lawyer is facing an uphill fight against two-term incumbent State's Attorney Andrew Sonner, a Democrat. But driving around the county in a big brown bus with her name emblazoned on the size and showing up - sometimes unexpectedly - at every candidate forum she can find, Williams is running with the same brashness she showed the November day in 1966 when her tenure as County Council president was halted by a court order.
The court decision was the finale of a wild post-election period when the lame duck council rezoned more than 2,000 county acres for higher-density use, some of its contrary to previously adopted master plans.
One rezoning session took place at a Council meeting where at 15 minutes past midnight, Williams, having adjourned the meeting, called a new one to order, allowing all the council members to collect an extra $30 apiece for attending the new session.
Within days, while the council was considering some high-density zoning for the Potomac area, a court order barred further actions by the lame ducks and ordered the new council seated.
Williams now says: "I don't make any apologies for what we did. I voted the way I thought on the evidence that was before us. If it went across the street and some judge said it was wrong, it didn't bother me."
Her record in the council, a council she notes cut property taxes for four straight years, is not an issue in this race, according to Williams. What is at issue is that Sonner "is vulnerable" and the community "is dissatisfied" with him, according to Williams.
That's what Dan Cassidy, Sonner's youthful opponent in this year's bitter, hard-fought Democratic primary, believed, too. But Sonner won that race by a 2-to-1 margin.
While stalking votes in the county then, he refrained from talking about his opponent and made no charges against him. Sonner is doing the same thing now, "just running on my record," he explains.
When talking about the election, Sonner quickly points to a $250,000 grant his office recently got to start a program to prosecute "career criminals" - individuals who are committing burglaries or armed robberies almost as a way of life. Sonner says the county is one of only two suburban jurisdictions in the country to win such a grant, one of several federally-funded programs he has initiated while in office.
Williams is attempting to make marijuana and the police department's recent crackdown on juvenile users an issue in the campaign, saying drug abuse "strikes at the very heart of our community - the family unit." She says Sonner should have taken steps long ago by talking to juvenile authorities and school officials to stop drug abuse in the schools. She also promises that as state's attorney she would press to have every juvenile arrested for a marijuana use appear before a judge.
Sonner responded by saying that "all case (of juveniles arrested for drug use), that come through the system will be presented in court." But he says it is not his job to tell juvenile authorities, who screen all criminal cases against juveniles before they reach the court, how to handle their jobs.