Frank R. Weathersbee, Anne Arundel County's longtime chief prosecutor, said he plans to seek a sixth term in office, one that would make him among the longest-tenured state's attorneys in Maryland.

The Democrat has not set a timetable for announcing his 2010 candidacy, when he expects to bring out the "Weathersbee for State's Attorney" signs from previous campaigns.

Weathersbee, 65, has been a key player in the county's criminal justice system through more than a generation.

In addition to specialized investigation and prosecution units, the office has programs to divert criminal cases from court. The newest is the first in the country for motorists charged with driving on licenses that were suspended for failure to pay tickets and child support. There are about 100 such cases in court each week, he said.

His office, Weathersbee said, has dramatically expanded victim-witness advocacy and has focused attention on hate crime, gang and community prosecution. "The job changes," he said in a recent interview. "It's always a changing playing field, so to speak."

At the same time, he has criticized judges for what he considered light sentences and was so adamant about obtaining state money toward prosecuting state prison violence that he briefly blocked new prison cases in the county courts.

His plan to run in 2010 gives Republicans a heads-up that they are not facing a wide-open contest.

A Republican candidate is likely to surface before the end of the year, said Alan Rzepkowski, who heads the county's Republican Central Committee. "Candidates that will come forward will be looking at his record closely, very closely," he said.

Weathersbee tends to stay behind the scenes and rarely does courtroom work - a point opponents have hammered him on in recent elections - but his more than two decades of victim advocacy work and lobbying for anti-crime laws have appealed to voters.

He has fended off opponents' charges that his office made errors that cost it cases, is slow, does not have enough minority representation on its staff, and more, said Dan Nataf, who directs the Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College.

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