Three Republican hopefuls are running to unseat Anne Arundel County Sheriff Jim Fredericks in the July 19 primary.
The incumbent Fredericks was elected in 2018 after edging then-Sheriff Ron Bateman in the primary. His opponents include Warren Porter, a 10-year veteran of the sheriff’s office; Joe Delimater, a deacon and electrical worker; and James McNeill, a former Annapolis Police officer.
One Democrat is running in the race — Everett Sesker, a former Prince George’s County Police Department major who retired in 2012 after serving there for 22 years. He will face the winner of the GOP primary in the November general election.
In Anne Arundel County, the sheriff’s office is primarily responsible for serving warrants and legal processes for circuit and district courts. It also provides security and transportation at the circuit courthouse in Annapolis. Its officers are sworn, have arrest powers and carry weapons, but the office is not the county’s lead law enforcement agency.
Fredericks, a Tracys Landing resident, is a former Anne Arundel County Police Department lieutenant, campaigned in 2018 on restoring integrity to the office, which faced a barrage of public controversies towards the end of Bateman’s career.
In 2016, Bateman was arrested by Anne Arundel County Police after his wife alleged he had punched her in the eye during a domestic dispute. She recanted the allegation and declined to testify on her husband’s trial date. He was acquitted of the misdemeanor assault charge. In 2018, a county audit found that the sheriff’s office had “significant deficiencies” in its finance operations. A few days before the 2018 primary election, a sheriff’s office employee was charged after investigators said she used her position to leak sealed indictments to gang members who were about to be arrested.
In a recent interview, Fredericks highlighted a plethora of technology updates brought in under his administration, such as dispatch systems and record management software meant to share information between police agencies, as well as industry-standard electronic devices, noting the department still carried flip phones when he came to office.
Fredericks said that he’s developed close relationships with the county government over the past four years, and hopes to continue a growing relationship with the county’s IT department, “making sure we don’t fall behind” on technology again.
At his office in the county circuit courthouse, he hailed the creation of a new center for the department’s Field Operations Bureau on Commerce Park Drive, near Westfield Annapolis Mall. The new location, located in a county-leased building, provides space for several civilian sheriff’s office employees, and contains a new dispatch center and a gym. He said the space also will expand training opportunities and enhance the department’s canine program.
He touted his creation of an online warrant database, which publicly displays a list of active warrants that are more than six months old. He said the program works in tandem with a “Safe Surrender” program which allows those with open warrants to peacefully turn themselves in, preventing negative interactions with deputies. He said it’s also increased the number of anonymous tips the office receives.
Porter, his opponent who works on the sheriff’s office’s criminal warrant team, disagrees with Fredericks’ warrant strategy.
“If you let everybody know you’ve got warrants, then it’s harder to find them,” Porter said.
He noted that a Safe Surrender program has existed under previous sheriffs, although instead of being posted publicly, those with open warrants were sent a letter. He also hailed Bateman’s “Anne Arundel County Most Wanted,” a public-access television and online show which would broadcast photos and descriptions of select wanted people, saying he believed the program was “more effective.”
Porter, who was hired under Bateman’s administration, said he decided to run after working under Fredericks. He hopes to bring back structures and policies that he saw as advantageous under Bateman.
“I see his deficiencies,” Porter said. “The way he has his structure, as far as his command staff and how we function, it needs to be restructured so that it can be more effective.”
If elected, Porter said he would bring back weekend coverage and allow larger teams of deputies to serve warrants at individual homes, citing safety concerns. He said he hoped to address the county’s backlog of unserved warrants by streamlining time-consuming processes of writing affidavits and transporting defendants long distances.
Both of the candidates expressed support for equipping deputies with body-worn cameras, a program Fredericks said would be rolling out by the end of the summer.
Fredericks reported more than $55,000 in his campaign account, according to finance reports. That’s nearly nine times more campaign cash on hand than his three GOP opponents combined. Sesker reported carrying over $9,300 in his campaign account last week.
Porter, a longtime Pasadena resident had just over $5,000 in his campaign account when he filed his campaign finance report last week. He said if he doesn’t win, he’ll continue to serve at the sheriff’s office.
“I’m a public service worker ‘til the end,” he said.
Others in the Republican race include Delimater, the only candidate without law enforcement experience. An electrical worker and deacon, the Glen Burnie resident said he was an outsider whose goal is to “uphold the constitution.”
“I don’t see any of these guys standing up for the constitution,” he said, adding that public health measures put in place throughout the COVID-19 pandemic were unconstitutional and that he would “hold people accountable” for enforcing them.
He said he wants to establish a neighborhood-based sheriff’s “posse” of volunteers to reduce crime and “keep a check on the government.” The county sheriff’s office most recently had a posse in the early 1990s under one-term Sheriff Robert G. Pepersack, Sr.
“That’s what the founders believed in,” Delimater said.
A Navy veteran, this is Delimater’s second run for the office, having challenged Bateman in 2014. He had $710 in his campaign account, according to his report filed last week.
McNeill is a former Annapolis Police Department officer who lives in Gambrills. Before his 13-year career in the Annapolis agency, he served as a police officer for the Maryland Transportation Authority and Maryland Aviation Administration, also volunteering for the sheriff’s office under Pepersack and his predecessor, longtime Sheriff William R. Huggins.
If elected, McNeill said he also hopes to bring back a volunteer posse, and vowed to “hold the line” on reducing the office’s backlog of warrants by upgrading technology. He said he would establish a unit focusing on addressing the opioid crisis and vowed to address human trafficking and immigration.
He had $300 in his campaign account, and said he is self-funding his campaign.
Fredericks’ campaign has spent over $8,000 since last year, according to campaign finance records. Porter has spent just under $7,000. Delimater hasn’t reported any expenditures, and McNeill only reported spending on a $25 candidacy filing fee.
Although he’s unopposed in the Democratic primary, Sesker has so far outspent all of the Republican candidates. He’s reported over $12,000 in campaign spending since filing his first report in January.
The Morning Sun
“I want to show people that I’m here,” he said, noting he’s been attending campaign events and securing endorsements from Democratic county officials, including County Executive Steuart Pittman and Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley.
Sesker decided to run for sheriff to give the office a stronger role in the criminal justice system by working closely with other agencies. He said he would want the office to keep in contact with victims of domestic violence, and help connect wanted individuals with resources such as drug and mental health treatment.
“We’re going to go out and find” people with warrants, he said, but “at the same time, we’re going to find out what their needs are.”
Sesker hopes to reform the office’s promotions process, which he said he has heard to be “based on friendships,” and aims to improve efficiency by delegating some duties to civilian employees, giving deputies more time on the street.
Since retiring from the Prince George’s Police Department, the Tracys Landing resident served as the executive director of the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission for a period, but said he resigned because he’s a “people person” and felt confined to an office. He now works as a law enforcement consultant for the Local Government Insurance Trust.
Sesker lost a primary bid for the Prince George’s sheriff’s race in 2014.
This year’s primary election will be held on July 19. The deadline to register to vote is June 28.