Republicans won or retained control of the boards of commissioners in two of three Southern Maryland counties and kept the party's majority hold on county sheriff positions.
The Republicans' key wins included races for Calvert County sheriff, where Mike Evans beat incumbent Democrat John A. "Rodney" Bartlett Jr., and for St. Mary's County commissioners president, where incumbent Democrat Julie B. Randall lost to GOP challenger Thomas F. McKay.
McKay, who collected about 60 percent of the vote and helped the Republicans to take control of the St. Mary's board, said he was "a little surprised at the margin of victory" but he thought "the voters sent a pretty clear message."
"It says that people feel like this board has not been fiscally responsible. . . . They want a government that is leaner and meaner," McKay said.
Also elected in the St. Mary's commissioner races were Republicans Kenny Dement, who defeated incumbent Commissioner Joseph F. Anderson (D), and Larry Jarboe, who returns to the seat he lost four years ago. Incumbent Democrat Daniel H. Raley was reelected. Incumbent Democrat Thomas A. Mattingly Sr. was in a virtual tie with GOP challenger Joe Gass.
Evans's win in the Calvert County sheriff's race capped more than a year of controversy and political infighting after Bartlett was appointed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) to replace former sheriff Vonzel R. Ward (R), who resigned after being investigated by the state prosecutor's office.
After Ward's resignation, the Republican-controlled Calvert Board of Commissioners attempted to create a county police department to supplant the sheriff's office as the county's lead law enforcement agency. Bartlett won that fight -- a majority of the commissioners backed down. And he even survived a comeback bid by Ward, who lost in the Republican primary to Evans not long after Bartlett's deputies executed a search warrant on the former sheriff's home. Ward was suspected of leaking personnel documents to the press that involved a another candidate in the Republican primary.
But yesterday Bartlett lost the final fight on a day when the GOP retained its majority hold on the Calvert Board of Commissioners.
Bartlett conceded at 9:32 p.m., when he was down by more than 1,700 votes with only six precincts reporting.
"Mike Evans won, but there is a sheriff's office," Bartlett said. "And if I hadn't come down here, there wouldn't have been one."
When asked whether his county roots played a role in his election, Evans said, "Absolutely. That had a big effect." Evans's mother was elected the county Circuit Court clerk numerous times.
Calvert Commissioners President David F. Hale (R-Owings), who was the top vote-getter in the county commissioners election, said that gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s "popularity definitely drove Republicans to the polls and definitely helped all five of our candidates and Mike Evans for sheriff."
Hale also said the election, which gave the Republicans majority control of the Board of Commissioners for the second straight time after many years of Democrat rule, affirmed the "get-the-job-done approach that this board had been working with."
Two other Republicans -- incumbent Linda L. Kelley and Susan Shaw -- were also elected to the board, as was Democrat Wilson H. Parran, who finished second to Hale in overall votes. Democrat Grace Mary Brady finished in the lead for the final seat representing the county's 1st District.
Brady was ahead of Republican challenger Jerry Clark by 52 votes, but -- like other candidates in close races -- she will have to wait out the counting of additional ballots before her victory can be declared final. The next step will involve the tallying of about a thousand or so absentee ballots tomorrow in Calvert. Clark, who narrowly won his Republican primary race, said, "That'll be old hat to me."
Democrats did win the St. Mary's sheriff's race, where David D. Zylak narrowly beat Republican Mickey M. Bailey, an office open because the incumbent GOP sheriff did not run again.
Incumbent Republican Charles County Sheriff Frederick E. Davis beat Democrat Rex Coffey.
The rematch of 1998's sheriff's race in Charles County featured plenty of charges and countercharges in a campaign between two men who publicly disdain each other. Davis won again, but the margin of victory was closer.
The candidates could not even agree on a seemingly objective point: crime statistics. Coffey cited recent statistics showing that the number of crime incidents increased in the last two years while Davis focused on a decreasing crime rate -- the number of incidents per 100,000 people.
In the race for St. Mary's County sheriff, Bailey and Zylak were both longtime veterans of the department and ran a cordial campaign during which they disagreed on few issues. Zylak narrowly edged Bailey when all the votes were counted.
In Charles County, voters left Democrats in control of the Board of Commissioners.
Commissioners President Murray D. Levy (D-At Large) won, facing only a write-in candidate whom he beat easily in the Sept. 10 primary. Incumbents W. Daniel Mayer (R-La Plata), Al Smith (R-Waldorf) and Robert J. Fuller (D-St. Charles) all won reelection. Wayne Cooper (D) defeated Republican John D. Rutherford for the only open seat on the board.
Reginald Kearney (D), the only African American commissioner candidate, lost to Smith. Kearney said he was "disappointed" but vowed to run again.
"I'm not going anywhere. I will be back," he said. "We ran a hard race. We spent $30,000."