Barnes to shift to GOP, run for state's attorney


Jerry F. Barnes, who lost a close, bitter election against Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman as a Democrat four years ago, is expected to file today to run for the prosecutor post as a Republican.

The Sept. 13 primary face-off between the former boss -- Mr. Hickman -- and loyal employee -- Mr. Barnes -- will not be a repeat of the mud-slinging affair of 1990, both candidates said Thursday.

"I'm not going to joust with this man," Mr. Barnes, an assistant state's attorney in Frederick, said last week. Mr. Hickman, a five-term incumbent, said, "This election will be no replay of 1990. . . . The difference in our records are going to be very clear."

In announcing his candidacy, Mr. Barnes said in a prepared statement that if he is elected, "The criminal will not relish the courtroom as a sanctuary.

"As a conservative and Carroll County native, I will ensure a safe environment for our children, our elderly, our business people and all citizens . . . "

Mr. Hickman, in announcing his bid for a sixth four-year term Thursday, said, "Our staff has continued to make Carroll County a very bad place for criminals."

The primary match-up had been rumored for nearly seven months. In the fall -- when Mr. Hickman began to gear up his campaign -- political observers said that such a contest among the Republicans could give the Democrats a chance to steal the seat held by Mr. Hickman since 1974.

But, as of Friday, no Democrat had filed to run for the post. With the deadline for filing 9 p.m. today, no prominent Democratic candidates have been publicly mentioned by party officials.

The 1990 race -- which Mr. Hickman won by fewer than 700 votes -- was contentious. The candidates had worked together from 1976 until Mr. Barnes left the office in 1989, switched to the Democratic Party and announced his candidacy.

In that campaign, Mr. Barnes accused Mr. Hickman of misconduct in office. Mr. Hickman accused Mr. Barnes of associating with "known criminals." Each took swipes at the other almost daily.

Mr. Hickman said he welcomed Mr. Barnes' entrance in the race.

"It's great news for me, because unopposed candidates cannot be heard," he said. "He's a dream candidate for me. People are going to look at us and our differences."

Last week, both men were extolling their records as prosecutors. Mr. Hickman said he and his staff have won a greater percentage of first-degree murder convictions than any other county. He said his office has made strides in the prosecution of sex crimes and drug trafficking.

Mr. Barnes, in his prepared statement, challenged Carroll voters to look at his record as Frederick County's chief drug prosecutor. "Pick up a Frederick County telephone book, call any citizen, and ask them about the numerous convictions I've achieved and the compassion extended to victims."

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