It was a most unusual sight, the three candidates for the hotly contested state's attorney's race standing arm-in-arm yesterday, mugging for a camera.
But the three are as acrimonious as ever, judging from the campaign rhetoric flowing from Republican Jerry F. Barnes, incumbent write-in candidate Thomas E. Hickman and Democrat Linda A. Holmes at yesterday's Carroll Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
"The state's attorney's office needs to be better managed now," Ms. Holmes, a Westminster attorney, told the more than 80 business people in the audience.
"It needs somebody who won't let the big cases fall through the cracks."
Mr. Barnes said to his one-time boss and last month's Republican primary loser: "Last month's campaign was well-fought, it was fair, it was above board. And I prevailed."
And Mr. Hickman, who wants the county's voters to return him to office for the sixth time, said one of his opponents -- Ms. Holmes -- has never tried a serious criminal case and his other challenger has never won a first-degree murder trial.
"You should ask yourself, if you or a family member is a victim of a crime, who do you want representing the public?" Mr. Hickman said.
For the most part, none of the candidates covered any new ground -- or strayed from their established rhetoric -- at the half-hour forum.
Mr. Barnes, now Frederick County's top narcotics prosecutor, said he would expand on Mr. Hickman's often-praised child and sexual abuse unit and his victim-witness program.
He also pledged to take over the prosecution of drug crimes personally.
He said he would strive to seek more no-parole sentences for repeat offenders and would be a full-time, in-court prosecutor.
Ms. Holmes insisted that experience in the courtroom was not what the job is all about.
She said that with her business and legal experience, she could better manage the office so that "arguing and a political agenda do not get in the way of serving the public."
She said she would run an office that does not allow for murder conviction reversals for technical mistakes, one that is fiscally restrained and one that will continue to be tough on crime.
Mr. Hickman used yesterday's forum to mount his first attack of the campaign on his former employee.
He criticized Mr. Barnes' record, saying that out of six murder cases, Mr. Barnes has managed to obtain a sentence no greater than eight years, a claim Mr. Barnes denied yesterday.
Mr. Barnes did not provide specifics, but he said he would show that Mr. Hickman was not fairly characterizing his success with homicide convictions.
Mr. Hickman also said Mr. Barnes' announced desire to head the narcotics task force was foolish and short-sighted.