Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman, rebuffed by Republicans in his bid for the GOP nod in last week's primary, announced yesterday that he will mount a write-in campaign for a sixth term as the county's top prosecutor.
"There are many people who think I should forget public service altogether," the prosecutor said. "But I've had a strong Christian upbringing that makes me dedicated in service to others. We have such a great team of people here, and there are very few times you can say that you are part of a winning team."
Mr. Hickman's is believed to be the first major write-in effort in the county in more than 10 years. It is the first such campaign for state's attorney in nearly a quarter-century.
Neither previous effort was successful. In 1982, a Democratic candidate for county commissioner lost in the primary and was trounced as a write-in.
In 1970, incumbent Republican State's Attorney Bryan T. McIntire Jr. lost in the primary to Z. Lanny Harchenhorn. Mr. McIntire waged a write-in effort in the general election campaign -- in which there was no Democratic candidate -- but lost.
Mr. Hickman, an assistant under Mr. Harchenhorn, was elected to office four years later.
Yesterday's announcement had been expected since Mr. Hickman narrowly lost the Republican primary to one-time employee Jerry F. Barnes.
Mr. Barnes, who as a Democrat lost to Mr. Hickman in the 1990 general election by a margin of less than 2 percent, beat his former boss by 172 votes last week. More than 12,600 votes were cast.
Mr. Barnes declined to comment on Mr. Hickman's re-entry into the race, but the move was criticized by many high-ranking county Republicans.
"Tom Hickman made more Democrats happy today than he did Republicans," said state Sen. Larry E. Haines, a one-time Hickman backer. "If he would have asked me, I would have advised him against it. I know it was a difficult loss, because it was very, very close. I was a supporter of Tom's, but now I will be supporting our candidate."
Thomas W. Bowen, chairman of the county's Republican Central Committee, was more blunt in his assessment of yesterday's announcement, saying, "The Republican voters selected Jerry Barnes as their standard-bearer, and I wholeheartedly support Mr. Barnes. What [Mr. Hickman] did is divisive to the party. Tom Hickman ought to have known better."
Having Mr. Barnes and Mr. Hickman in the race has bolstered the hopes of Linda A. Holmes, a political newcomer who was unopposed in her bid to become the Democratic candidate for state's attorney.
"Tom Hickman's participation is certainly not going to change my campaign," Ms. Holmes said yesterday. "I will still focus on how the office has been managed."
She said the state's attorney's office should not be above scrutiny, and she has criticized the county's narcotics task force.
Mr. Hickman, in his announcement yesterday, said criticism of the drug task force has been unfair and diverts the public from the real issues of crime and punishment.
Ms. Holmes disagreed, saying, "I don't think accountability to the public is a minuscule issue."
In a four-page statement outlining his reasons for re-entering the race, Mr. Hickman blamed the news media, his opponents and apathetic voters for his primary loss.
He said he doesn't want to see his team of prosecutors dismantled and that neither of his opponents is as qualified as he is to run the 40-member office.
"In all of this, the public good was cast aside. . . . I know better than to carp about the press, but during the past 17 months there must have been 10 editorials, if not 15, in The Sun on the drug task force budget audit, a matter having absolutely nothing to do with 99.9 percent of the work of the state's attorney's office," Mr. Hickman said in the statement.
He said the campaign would be "tough" but that he hoped the candidates would be able to avoid mudslinging.
Write-in candidates are at a structural disadvantage. Their names do not appear on any ballot, and they don't have the backing -- financial or otherwise -- of either major party.
Mr. Hickman said he will rely on volunteers -- he has set up a volunteer phone number, 876-8700 -- and on contributions of time and money from his staff, friends, family and supporters.
His campaign manager, school board President John Myers, also is volunteering his time.
To cast a ballot for a write-in candidate, the voter needs to write the candidate's name on a line at the bottom of the ballot, then draw a line from the name to the proper spot on the ballot.
All ballots with write-in votes will be separated from those without write-ins and will be tabulated after the rest of the results are counted, said Rosemary L. McCloskey, the county's elections director.