Attorneys for Mary Conaway, winner of the Democratic primary for Baltimore register of wills, said yesterday they will appeal a ruling that she broke state election laws by giving away smoke detectors and food.

A Superior Court jury Saturday ruled that Conaway violated laws that bar candidates from giving people items of value in an effort to win their votes.

The appeal would go to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

Conaway won a narrow victory over incumbent Patrick Duffy when election officials found a 24,000-vote count error in her opponent's favor more than a week after the primary. Duffy filed the suit against her that resulted in the ruling.

During the trial, Conaway acknowledged helping to hand out 50 smoke detectors, 1,000 loaves of bread and sticks of butter and chicken to Baltimore residents before the election.

But she testified that the giveaways were the idea of her husband, Frank, who was unsuccessful in his bid to retain his House of Delegates seat in the Democratic primary.

Conaway said that she distributed the items to help her husband and to highlight community needs, adding those actions were not attempts to persuade people to vote for her.

But Paul Sandler, an attorney for Duffy, pointed out that some of the items given away were handed out in bags that urged voters to support the Conaways' bids for offices.

State law requires that the jury's finding be forwarded to the state board of elections and then to the speaker of the House of Delegates.

House speaker Benjamin Cardin (D-Baltimore) said he is uncertain exactly how the Conaway case will be handled. "We have had no cases to guide us. There really is no precedent for it," he said.