Incumbent Democrats gird for re-election State's attorney, sheriff tout records as they head toward foe-less primaries; CAMPAIGN 1998


Seeking protection more from the sun than from Republicans -- at least for now -- a group of Democrats gathered yesterday outside the Anne Arundel County Court House to boost the re-election bids of Sheriff George F. Johnson IV and State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee.

The "courthouse team" quickly expanded to include Judith L. Duckett, who announced her try for a comeback as a judge of the Orphans Court, a post she held from 1990 to 1994.

Neither Johnson, 44, nor Weathersbee, 54, has opposition yet in the September primary, but both will face challengers in the November general election.

Democratic and Republican slates still have empty spots for other offices. Candidates must file by July 6.

The two men are carrying the banner for their party as the leading incumbents in countywide races. Four years ago, Republicans swept most offices, and a handful of Republican officeholders mingled in the crowd of about 100 people -- Robert Duckworth among them.

"I am on the courthouse team that serves the citizens of Anne Arundel County," said Duckworth, who is seeking re-election as clerk of the Circuit Court.

Long, prepared statements fell by the wayside.

"I did have a lot of things to say, but it's awfully hot out here," Weathersbee said.

Both men said they intend to run on their records.

Weathersbee, who narrowly defeated GOP challenger John R. Greiber in 1994, pointed to the creation of a model victim-witness assistance program, specialized prosecution units and efforts to help neighborhoods deal with particular crime issues.

Weathersbee was appointed state's attorney in 1988 after 20 years as an assistant and deputy prosecutor.

Hoping to unseat him in November is lawyer Richard Trunnell, 36, a former Prince George's County assistant prosecutor who is active in Crofton civic affairs.

The Republican opened his campaign in March, arguing that Weathersbee runs "an old, tired office" that is not aggressive.

Trunnell has chided the incumbent for not taking advantage of a 1997 law that allows prosecutors to request that a judge impound the car of a person who continues to drive on a license that is suspended or revoked for a prior alcohol-related offense.

Johnson, a former county police sergeant and son of a former county Democratic Central Committee chairman, took the sheriff's post four years ago from the much-criticized incumbent, Robert G. Pepersack Sr.

"The only thing that we have not changed is the uniforms that we are wearing," Johnson said, adding that even the clothing question may yet be considered.

He said he will run on a record that includes going from an inherited budget deficit to a surplus, establishing a child support enforcement unit and taking over service of all court documents by the end of this year.

His Republican opponent is Mark T. Gillen, 36, a Baltimore deputy sheriff.

Gillen said yesterday that the sheriff's department should be streamlined to save money. Among measures he is promoting is eliminating canine units, reducing the number of employees and shrinking the vehicle fleet.

Pub Date: 6/26/98

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