Sheriff candidates still waiting for primary outcome
Sep. 12, 2002
Greg Johnson
Staff Writer

After a bitterly contentious campaign and the tragic loss of two colleagues slain while on duty last month, members of the sheriff's office are having to wait an additional 48 hours after polls closed Tuesday before they can find out who will be the leader of their agency.

Sheriff Alonzo Black and Cpl. Michael Jackson, both Democrats, are the only two candidates seeking the sheriff's post. But problems with data from nine precincts Tuesday kept the final result pending until today, when county election officials plan to count absentee ballots and recount votes cast on the county's new electronic voting machines.

As of Wednesday morning, the outcome remains too close to call.

Jackson, 38, held on to a slim lead with 46,799 votes-- or 50.6 percent of the total cast. Black, 57, trails with 45,623 votes-- or 49.4 percent.

These votes are from 200 of 209 precincts reporting, or 96 percent of the votes, cast.

Jackson said during an interview Wednesday that the delay has made an already difficult process even tougher to handle.

"Living in limbo for 48 hours after a long campaign trail -- I don't know what to say," Jackson commented. "I can't take my mind off of this."

Black did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday or Wednesday. He did not appear at his campaign headquarters the day of the election and campaign officials said the final weeks before the election had proved stressful for the sheriff.

Jackson is president of the Deputy Sheriff's Association of Prince George's County and members of the organization have publicly criticized Black's leadership. Black has also accused a group of about 25 deputies of malingering on duty and claimed they have deliberately tried to subvert his administration.

Both sides were devastated by a tragic loss two weeks ago.

Two members of the agency, Sgt. James Arnaud and Deputy Elizabeth Magruder, were killed Aug. 29 when they tried to serve a civil warrant ordering 23-year-old James Logan to undergo a psychological evaluation. Logan shot the two deputies before fleeing his Adelphi home, police said.

Family members said Logan had previously been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia but that he had refused treatment.

James Aluisi, Black's immediate predecessor who served as sheriff for 20 years, said Friday that grief took over from political fervor during the final week before the primary.

"For four days we've been mourning," said Aluisi, who identified himself as a Jackson supporter. "For four days we've been focused on the deaths of two heroes. There has been no blame pointing."

Some critics of Black's administration, however, have noted that three deputies are supposed to be assigned the task of serving emergency medical petitions-- while Arnaud and Magruder were the only ones sent out to find Logan.

This recent criticism is consistent with complaints voiced Aug. 23, when about 70 members of the deputies association conducted a symbolic vote of "no confidence" against Black. The deputies said Black had neglected manpower and resource issues throughout his tenure as sheriff.

Both Arnaud and Magruder attended the union meeting.

Black said in a statement that the vote against him was politically motivated.

"When I took office in 1998 I had to work extremely hard to heal the wounds of many years of battle between the county (government) and the office of the sheriff," Black stated. "Through diligent and lengthy negotiations with the county, I was able to get the office back on its feet."

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