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Primary to decide some courthouse races


When Baltimore voters go to the polls for tomorrow's primary election, they will choose several courthouse officers, including sheriff, clerk of the court and register of wills.

All three Democratic incumbents are running for re-election -- Sheriff John W. Anderson, Clerk of the Court Frank M. Conaway and his wife, Register of Wills Mary W. Conaway.

Each is being challenged by one Democratic opponent. There are no Republican challengers.

The opponents -- sheriff candidate Shelton J. Stewart and clerk of the court candidate William Allen -- might be familiar because they were forced from elected courthouse offices in the 1980s amid investigations.

The candidate for register of wills, L. Ramona Moore, ran for that office four years ago and lost to the incumbent.

The sheriff in Baltimore oversees a staff of about 150 deputies and a budget of about $9 million. The sheriff's main duties are to provide security at city courthouses, serve warrants and transport prisoners.

Anderson, 55, has held the office since 1989.

He says he has improved training for his deputies and implemented a child-support amnesty program in the 1990s.

"I still have something to offer the citizens of Baltimore City," said Anderson.

His challenger, Stewart, held the office from 1986 to 1988, becoming the city's first black sheriff. He left office after being convicted for obstruction of justice stemming from his 1986 campaign. A jury deadlocked on related bribery charges.

"They entrapped me," he said recently.

Stewart, 59, said he wants to run the department again to make it a better place for the deputies to work and to raise salaries. "I owe that to the deputies," he said.

The clerk of the court's main functions are to swear in judges, the mayor and the police commissioner, and to maintain records for the civil and criminal court.

Frank Conaway, 69, has held the office since 1988, overseeing about 250 employees and a $10 million budget. "I think I've had a good deal of success in raising morale of employees and improving conditions of the courthouse," he said.

His challenger, William Allen, 64, held the office from 1978 to 1981. He resigned amid an investigation by the state's attorney's office's fraud unit into mismanagement of his office.

Allen said his management was called into question, but insists he resigned because he "refused to dismiss people."

He said he wants to bring "professionalism" back to the office, but would not elaborate on his campaign platform, saying, "I don't want to tip off the challengers."

The main function of the office of register of wills is to oversee the distribution of the assets of individuals who are deceased.

Mary Conaway, 59, has held the office since 1982, when she beat eight-year incumbent Patrick J. Duffy.

Conaway oversees 40 employees. The department operates using money collected from inheritance taxes and other fees.

Conaway said she wants to continue providing "adequate, efficient service."

Her challenger, Moore, 44, is a student and mentor at the Community College of Baltimore County in Catonsville.

If elected, she plans to educate more people about the services in the office.

In addition, the three Orphans' Court judges are running for re-election, with one Democratic primary challenger. Orphans' Court judges handle legal matters related to estates and wills.

The sitting judges are Joyce M. Baylor-Thompson, Karen Friedman and Lewyn Scott Garrett. Challenging them is Democrat James Ward Morrow.

Republican Victor Clark Jr. also is running for the post.

Five Circuit Court judges are running unopposed for re-election. They are: John M. Glynn, Clifton J. Gordy, John P. Miller, Lynn K. Stewart and Shirley M. Watts.

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