Michael J. Halter, a veteran Deputy State’s Attorney for Cecil County, has filed as a Republican candidate for State’s Attorney to run against incumbent Democrat Christopher Eastridge, who appointed Halter as his deputy. Halter was once quoted as saying he would never run against Eastridge.
Eastridge suffered an embarrasing slap in the face from the judicial nominating commission several months ago when he was passed over for recommendation to the Governor for an appointment to the Circuit Court to replace the retired Judge Dexter Thompson. The Governor recently appointed Democrat V. Michael Whelan, a veteran trial attorney and former assistant State’s Attorney, to the judgeship.
Eastridge just filed for re-election as State’s Attorney on June 2, one day after Halter filed as a Republican candidate for the job, according to state Board of Elections records.
To compound the political complexities, E.D.E. “Ellis” Rollins III filed as a Republican candidate for State’s Attorney last summer, so Halter and Rollins would face each other in the GOP primary. But Rollins has also hedged his political bets by applying for a judicial appointment. Although Rollins was passed over for the Thompson seat, Rollins remains on the recommended list for one other current vacancy on the Circuit Court, and yet another seat will be vacated in the fall with the upcoming retirement of Judge O. Robert Lidums.
Rollins is a political newcomer, as is Halter. But as a Republican, Rollins’ chances of getting a judicial appointment from a Democratic governor seeking re-election this year seem slim. Although Rollins has not run for political office before, his grandfather served as the county’s State’s Attorney, state Attorney General and Circuit Court judge, and his father was also a Circuit Court judge.
Halter was a full-time prosecutor for much of his tenure with the local State’s Attorney’s office, unlike many of the assistant state’s attorneys who work on a part-time basis as prosecutors while handling civil matters in private practice. Halter joined the office in 2004 and was appointed the Deputy State’s Attorney by Eastridge in 2007, after the retirement of the long-time Deputy, David Parrack. At the time of his appointment, Halter was quoted in an interview with The Cecil Whig as saying he would “never” run against Eastridge, although he expressed interest in the State’s Attorney job if his boss decided to leave and do something else.
With a judgeship pass-over by the nominating commission, Eastridge has put his political future on the re-election block.
But this is, after all, Cecil County and all things political are often not quite what they seem. Halter’s entry into the GOP primary means that Rollins will have a very credible challenger. The Rolllins family name is golden in the county and Rollins has been a trial attorney but not a prosecutor, while Halter would bring intensive prosecutorial experience to the top job. An aggressive primary campaign could rough up Rollins even if he wins, giving Eastridge an advantage in a general election match-up with Rollins. But if Halter wins the Republican primary, it would set up an intriguing boss-deputy contest, assuming that Halter would want to criticize his former mentor.
But Halter has not been shy about criticizing some Cecil County judges. He drew some fire in the past for openly criticizing what he saw as unwarranted leniency toward defendants by some judges, especially Judge Thompson.
Halter has set up a private law practice website, http://www.myelktonlawyer.com/home.html on which he touts his experience prosecuting over 2,000 cases with the State’s Attorney’s office but also emphasizes his skills as a criminal defense attorney who “knows the weaknesses of the State’s case” and would “get the best results for his clients.” It could not be confirmed Sunday when he left his position as deputy to Eastridge.
The Cecil Times has left phone messages for Halter and will update this report accordingly. Eastridge could not be reached for comment Sunday, with phone listings reported as disconnected.
NEWS UPDATE: The Cecil Times interviewed both men on Monday and posted a new article on their comments. The story is here: