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Rehrmann re-elected as Harford County executive ELECTION 1994


Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, a Democrat, easily won re-election last night with 62 percent of the vote, and Republican Joseph P. Meadows scored a major upset over incumbent Sheriff Robert E. Comes.

Republican Joanne S. Parrott narrowly beat Democrat Theresa M. Pierno to be the next president of the County Council.

Mrs. Parrott, a two-term councilwoman, led a Republican sweep of the seven-member panel.

Two open seats in Districts B and C were taken by Republicans, and a Republican challenger beat the incumbent Democrat in District F.

In other Harford races, Republican David R. Craig beat incumbent state Sen. Habern W. Freeman Jr., a popular Democrat and former county executive, in legislative District 34, with nearly 54 percent of the vote.

Also in District 34, Republican Nancy Jacobs was the top vote-getter in the race for three House of Delegates seats. Two incumbent Democrats, Rose Mary Hatem Bonsack and Mary Louise Preis, won re-election in that district.

One voter at Southampton Middle School near Bel Air seemed to reflect the sentiments of many Harford voters: "Yeah, I wanted to vote all the Democrats out," he said.

Another hot contest -- a ballot question on creating a new county police department -- was turned down, 53 percent to 47 percent.

Question A, a Rehrmann initiative, asked voters to approve a charter amendment to create a new county police department under the administration of the county executive, leaving the sheriff to serve legal papers, transport prisoners, maintain the detention center and provide court security.

As Mrs. Rehrmann claimed victory at her Bel Air campaign headquarters, her supporters played the song, "Taking Care of Business."

"They want me to take care of business tonight," Mrs. Rehrmann said, "but I think we are going to celebrate tonight."

Mrs. Rehrmann was challenged by Republican Ronald M. Szczybor, a businessman and former stockbroker whose vitriolic campaign rhetoric seemed to alienate many voters.

Question A was pushed by Mrs. Rehrmann in response to the death of inmate William Ford -- which resulted in a $400,000 settlement of a threatened civil rights lawsuit -- and in response to allegations of broader management problems in the sheriff's office. A county grand jury ruled that Mr. Ford killed himself, despite claims by the Ford family that the inmate was raped and killed by one or more jail guards.

The Maryland Sheriff's Association, a statewide lobbying group, had fought to retain the sheriff's law enforcement duties. The union of sheriff's deputies wanted a new police department with a chief appointed by the executive.

L Mr. Meadows, a state prosecutor, got 65 percent of the vote.

"I hoped for victory with a respectable margin, but I didn't expect the breadth of victory," Mr. Meadows said. "It didn't hurt to be the first Republican in 40 years to run for sheriff, because Republicans did quite well all over."

Mr. Meadows said the deputies who advocated Question A also supported him.

"They're the same ones who also supported my candidacy," he said. "They took a two-front approach: They were for Question A and for Joe Meadows. I don't blame them in their efforts in wanting to improve their plight. It's a golden opportunity for me to mend fences within the sheriff's department."

Mr. Comes, a Democrat, had faced harsh criticism of his management abilities and the controversies surrounding Mr. Ford's death. He attributed his defeat to the "Republican sweeps nationwide."

"I ran two races, and I won one," Mr. Comes said, referring to Question A. "Harford County voters proved that they don't want a police chief appointed by the county executive. That's a big victory for me. They want to choose their own."

Rita Dather, Harford's election board supervisor, said voter turnout in the county was 65.5 percent. Turnout in some precincts, including in Bel Air and Jarrettsville, ran as high as 80 percent.

Mrs. Parrott, in her victory speech outside her Bel Air headquarters, said, "This is a victory for Harford County and the happiest moment that I could ever have. It's been a long six months. People have cared, and they saw that I care about the people of Harford County.

"I will be the conscience of the County Council to make sure that we care about the environment and we care about growth.

"I am very proud that I am a pro-business candidate. I am very concerned that 60 percent of the people who live in Harford County leave Harford County to work."

Mrs. Pierno said, "We ran a great campaign, and I have no excuses. I'm going to continue to work on issues in the county and continue to support legislation for managed growth and for education."

Five of the seven seats on the County Council had been occupied by Republicans. The Republicans elected to the two open seats were homebuilder Veronica L. Chenowith in District B and Bel Air businessman Mark S. Decker in District C, who got 57 percent of the vote and 59 percent, respectively.

In District F, incumbent Philip J. Barker, a Democrat, was defeated by Republican challenger Mitchell Shank, who captured more than 52 percent of the vote.

In legislative District 35, Sen. William H. Amoss won re-election with 52 percent of the vote, over Republican Gwendalynne Corkran and Independent Catharine Wilson.

In the 35th District's House races, Republican James M. Harkins and Democrat Donald C. Fry, both incumbents, won re-election.

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