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Campaign Beat

Ballot Stuffing

By Van Smith | Posted 9/6/2006

Sheriff Showdown, Reprise

After Shelton J. Stewart was elected Baltimore City sheriff in 1986, he left office on the heels of a 1988 obstruction-of-justice conviction and was replaced by John W. Anderson, who has been sheriff ever since. Stewart may have been forced to give up his public office, but he's never let up on his ambitions. In 1994, he ran for his old job and lost. Ditto in 1998 and 2002. In between he made two stabs for City Council president and one for U.S. House. Now he's on his fourth attempt to unseat Anderson.

The sheriff's office serves court papers, manages court-related transactions, transports prisoners, and handles courthouse security. Anderson has survived scandals involving money-handling, nepotism, and abuse of vacation time without legal blemish. Stewart, though, is a perennial candidate who apparently doesn't know when to quit--except when forced out by a felony conviction.

Persona Problem

The challenger taking on the three incumbent judges of the Baltimore City Orphans' Court ("Death Match," Aug. 23) is misleading voters with campaign materials stating she is a judge, and may be violating election law by using a variety of names, a judicial-elections watchdog group has determined. The Maryland Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee, which is chaired by two former U.S. attorneys for Maryland and was formed earlier this year at the suggestion of Maryland Chief Judge Robert Bell, issued its letter to Orphans' Court candidate Ramona Baker-Moore on Aug. 28.

Baker-Moore's campaign materials "inescapably and improperly suggest to voters that you are already a judge on the Orphans' Court," the 23-member committee's letter states. The group has no authority to issue sanctions but intends to hold candidates to certain standards on the campaign trail. The issue of the multitude of names used by Baker-Moore may be a sanctionable offense under state election law, however, because candidates sign sworn statements of their names, and thus has been referred by the committee to State Prosecutor Robert Rohrbaugh.

By filing for office as "Baker-Moore" instead of the other names she uses, her name will appear at the top of the ballot. Voters are asked to select three names from a list of four little-known candidates, so Baker-Moore's top-of-the-ballot position benefits from voters who may simply check off the first three names on the list. The Orphans' Court incumbents--Joyce Baylor-Thompson, Karen Friedman, and Lewyn Scott Garrett--are attorneys who adjudicate matters involving wills, estates, and probates. Baker-Moore, who is not an attorney, did not respond to an e-mail and a phone message seeking comment.

In addition, Baker-Moore's web site continues to solicit campaign contributions by stating that they are "tax-deductible." This is illegal under federal tax law, punishable by fines of $1,000 per day, up to a maximum of $10,000. Baker-Moore previously told City Paper she would change her web site to comply with the law, which requires political campaigns to disclose that contributions are not tax-deductible.

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