Democrats don't seize 'opportunity'


For months, Carroll Democrats have been saying this was going to be the year they had a fighting chance to wrest the state's attorney's office from Thomas E. Hickman, the Republican who has been the county's top prosecutor for 20 years.

But with Tuesday's filing deadline come and gone, Mr. Hickman's only opposition is fellow Republican Jerry F. Barnes.

What happened to the Democrats?

"Oh, yeah, this year presents an incredible opportunity," said Gregory F. Pecoraro, the chairman of the Carroll County Democratic Central Committee. "I'm dying for a candidate. If I were a lawyer, I'd run."

Under Maryland election law, the Democrats have one more opportunity to enter the race.

According to Rosemary McCloskey, elections director in the Carroll County Board of Elections, central committees have until July 20 to nominate a person to run against the winner of the other party's primary.

Mr. Pecoraro, who says he has approached many county lawyers over the past several weeks, declined to specify who he and the party have asked to take on the incumbent.

"Most people are afraid of Hickman," Mr. Pecoraro said.

Mr. Hickman has defeated four Democrats and run unopposed once in his career as state's attorney. Three of those races, he said, were particularly hard-fought.

The last time Mr. Hickman faced a Democrat was in 1990 when Mr. Barnes -- a Democrat for about a year -- took on his former boss.

That campaign was noted for its nastiness on both sides, with each candidate dishing dirt on the other almost daily.

Mr. Hickman won by fewer than 700 votes.

In the fall, Mr. Pecoraro predicted that a summer with an intra-party version of the Tom and Jerry show would make it a breeze for a Democrat to step in.

"A contest between him and Barnes presents an outstanding opportunity to replace Tom Hickman," Mr. Pecoraro said in October.

But then, as now, Mr. Pecoraro had not persuaded any party member to step in and run for office.

The state's attorney's race isn't the only countywide spot in which there are no Democrats: Larry W. Shipley, the incumbent Republican clerk of the Circuit Court, is being challenged by Diane E. O'Leary, a Republican who used to be one of Mr. Shipley's deputy clerks.

She lost to Mr. Shipley in 1990 as a Democrat.

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