The process to find a successor to Calvert Sheriff Mike Evans (R) began in early February when he announced he would not be seeking a sixth consecutive, four-year term in 2022.
To date, three candidates — two Republicans and one Democrat — have filed to run for the post while two other Republicans have started their campaigns by distributing signs and hosting fundraisers. The filing deadline for the 2022 Maryland primary election is Feb. 22.
On Nov. 18, American Legion Post 206 in Chesapeake Beach hosted a well-attended forum for the five candidates.
“It’s the first time we’ve done something like this,” said Scott Deacon, post commander, who indicated the veterans may be hosting another forum in April prior to the June 28 Democratic and Republican primaries.
Among the candidates, only Craig Kontra, a Republican, is no longer active in law enforcement. Kontra, however, has only been retired from the sheriff’s office for 10 months and is the only one who has challenged the incumbent, running against Evans in 2014 and 2018.
The others seeking the office are Evans’ assistant sheriff, Col. Dave McDowell; and sheriff’s office Lt. Richard “Ricky” Cox, both Republicans; and sheriff’s office Cpl. Vaughn Johnson, a Democrat.
Republican Mike Wilson is the only one of the five with no ties to the county’s sheriff’s office. He is a retired Maryland state trooper and is currently serving as the chief of the Maryland Capitol Police.
The five were asked the same questions from a legion panel and the audience during the two-hour session.
There was little to no disagreement on subjects such as community policing, school resource officers, facilitating more diversity among the ranks of deputies, terminating agency personnel for issues that have deemed them unreliable by prosecutors and focusing on the ongoing war of drugs.
Instead, the candidates cited their leadership experiences and visions for the agency if elected sheriff.
Cox, who said being Calvert’s sheriff is a dream he’s had since he was in high school, noted his rise through the ranks and promised “transparency, leadership, innovation” as sheriff. He added he doesn’t regard the sheriff’s job as “a retirement gig.”
Kontra, whose career with the Calvert sheriff’s office started when the agency was much smaller, noted that he has had experience in every facet of the office.
“Some things we do well,” he said, adding there were areas where the sheriff’s office needs improvement. Kontra said one policy he will enact will be to “get the deputies out of their cars” and interacting with citizens.
“We are in the safest county in Maryland,” said McDowell, who added that status was attained through the agency’s leadership, which he was a part of the past decade. McDowell also stated he aims to change the adversarial perception some citizens have of local law enforcement.
“I never want anyone to fear a Calvert County sheriff’s deputy for any reason,” he declared.
“I am vested in this community,” Wilson affirmed. “I think people are ready for a change. I’ve been a police chief. I’ve changed the culture of that department.”
“I want to make us the beacon of the community again,” said Johnson, who added when he was growing up in Calvert “police officers were like family. At the end of the day, I am part of the community. We won’t always agree but we have to work together.”
Questions submitted in writing by audience members and vetted by legion officials included recent controversial topics. As with other issues, there appeared to be concurrence among the candidates.
None of the five said they would advocate for mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations among the ranks of deputies.
The five all indicated that any federal officials who came to the county to enforce any policy outside the parameters of the U.S. Constitution — especially related to any gun control initiatives — would meet staunch resistance from the sheriff’s office under his leadership.
Maryland’s primary election is next June 28 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Early voting for the primary will begin Thursday, June 16, and conclude on Thursday, June 23.