Challengers ousted two incumbent judges in the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court race, while a third sitting judge held on to her seat, according to virtually complete election results.
Paul F. Harris and Paul G. Goetzke unseated David S. Bruce and Rodney C. Warren. Michele D. Jaklitsch, the third of the three incumbents who had run as a slate, survived and was also elected to a 15-year term.
In Maryland's judicial election system, the top three vote-getters win, and candidates appear on the ballot with no mention of incumbency or party affiliation.
Voters approved a ballot measure that will allow the county to purchase goods and services for as much as $25,000 without a sealed competitive bid.
In the judicial race, the challengers accused the sitting judges of handing out criminal sentences that were far too lenient, while the incumbents said they were the only candidates with the experience to serve.
All three of the sitting judges were appointed by then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) in 2002 and had to run for a 15-year term. Goetzke, whose campaign Web site shows him pictured with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), said the county never fully supported Glendening "and yet we were saddled with his appointees."
Goetzke said the results were an indication that "the voters wanted to restore balance to the court." He added that he and Harris have "deeper roots in the county." Goetzke had said before the election that Anne Arundel residents are more conservative, want tougher sentences and "criminals rehabilitated in jail, not in their neighborhoods."
But the sitting judges argued that, unlike their challengers, they had been vetted by the state's Judicial Nominating Commission, a review that found them worthy of the bench.
"The bottom line in this race is these three sitting judges submitted themselves to that process and were all found to be highly qualified," said James P. Nolan, who managed the incumbents' campaign.
As for the ballot measure, the current $10,000 threshold has been the same for the past 22 years, and inflation has meant that many more purchases are having to go through the additional layer of bureaucracy, county officials have said.
Though competitive bidding can help save taxpayers' money, a more streamlined process would encourage more contractors to bid on projects, proponents of the measure said. That, in turn, could help make sure the county gets the most for its money, they said.
The measure was supported by the County Council, which unanimously passed a resolution supporting the referendum, and by County Executive Janet S. Owens (D).
Two years ago, the council passed a similar measure but voters rejected it. That proposal would have allowed the council to decide what items to put through the sealed-bid process, but it did not include a dollar limit, meaning that very expensive contacts could have been awarded without a thorough bidding process.