Baltimore’s 2014 citywide elections include one final campaign for the patriarch of a Baltimore family political dynasty, the Register of Wills prospective passing of the torch from mother to daughter, and a fiery young challenger for the State’s Attorney’s office.
In the race for Judge of the Baltimore City Judicial Eighth Circuit, eight candidates are vying for seven seats: Melissa Kaye Copeland, Philip S. Jackson, Jeffrey M. Geller, Alfred Nance, Christopher Panos, Melissa Phinn, Julie Rubin and Page Croyder. Of that group Croyder is the only candidate currently not seated on the Court. Croyder, who served for more than 20 years in the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s office before retiring from the agency in January 2008, says she is running for Nance’s seat.
“What the public should not stand for, are judges who embarrass and degrade the jurors, witnesses, and attorneys who appear in court before them…,” Croyder said in a statement in February. Nance has been the subject of multiple judicial disciplinary investigations over the years.
Frank M. Conaway, Sr. has been a public servant in Baltimore since he was elected to the House of Delegates in 1971. Years later in 1998 he was elected Clerk of the Circuit Court of Baltimore City, a position he still holds. But, the patriarch of the Conaway political clan says this will be his last campaign. He faces Robert Ignatowski and William Allen in the June primary.
Conaway’s wife Mary became the city’s first Black and first female Register of Wills in 1982. She recently retired from the position citing health issues, but she is hoping the couple’s daughter Belinda K. Conaway, a former 7th District City Councilwoman will succeed her. Belinda Conaway faces Ramona Moore Baker, Marco K. Merrick and Douglas K. Paige in the race for Register of Wills.
In the contest for Judge of the Orphan’s Court, incumbents Lewyn Scott Garrett and Michele E. Loewenthal face opponents Charles “Chuck” Bernstein, Stephan W. Fogleman, Granville Templeton, III and Mark H. Weisner for three seats. Chief Judge Joyce Baylor-Thompson is not running for re-election.
Long-time Baltimore City Sheriff John W. Anderson began his career as a deputy sheriff in 1972 and was appointed to his current position by former Governor William Donald Schaeffer in 1989. He faces two opponents in the June primary: Donoven Brooks and Richard Parker.
In perhaps the most volatile citywide race of 2014 incumbent State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein faces a resolute Marilyn Mosby, a former city prosecutor who has garnered some high profile endorsements and supporters.
“I can tell you from experience working in the State’s Attorney’s office (Mosby worked under both former State’s Attorney Pat Jessamy and Bernstein), that the police all too often get these bad guys off the street. It’s up to the State’s Attorney’s office to seal the deal and get the conviction and that’s not happening,” said Mosby who touts a conviction rate of 80 percent when she was a prosecutor.
She specifically cites the case of Nelson Bernard Clifford, who has been charged in five sexual assault cases since 2010 in which he was linked through DNA, yet was acquitted in four of those cases. As of the end of last year, Clifford was being held without bail as Bernstein’s office seeks a conviction on refiled charges from a 2007 allegation against the alleged rapist.
“As a wife, as a mother and a resident of West Baltimore and a former prosecutor, I know and understand that it’s a very small group of violent, repeat offenders who are wreaking all the havoc in our communities,” said Mosby who has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO and the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance. She is also supported by University of Maryland Law Professor and political strategist Larry Gibson and former Baltimore and former Baltimore City State’s Attorney Kurt Schmoke.
Despite Mosby’s charges State’s Attorney Bernstein says the relationship between police department and prosecutors, “Has never been stronger.”
“We’ve instituted a number of programs and strategies to insure that strong working relationship continues,” Bernstein said.
“For example…our major investigations unit, in terms of its prosecution of violent repeat offenders we meet on a monthly basis with our counterparts in the different districts to review those individuals who we want to target,” he added.
Bernstein, who assumed office in January 2011, says he personally engages directly with the community on almost a daily basis.
“Since we’ve went to this community prosecution model (prosecutors are assigned to specific neighborhoods in the city) we’ve been successful in prosecuting almost 500 more dangerous felons every year than we had in the past, as well as successfully prosecuting more than100 additional gun offenders every year,” Bernstein explained.
“That suggests to me…that not only is the community prosecution model successful, but also we are staying engaged with the community,” he added.
Nevertheless, Mosby argues, “the current administration’s priorities are off.”
“We’re not going to grow Baltimore, we’re not going to bring families, we’re not going to build businesses unless and until we do something about the crime and order to do that we have to prioritize.”