Anne Strasdauskas, Maryland, 1998
Anne Strasdauskas, (D)
Born January 8, 1954
Elected November 1998
Essay by Anne Strasdauskas for Out and Elected in the USA
In a race that was peppered with drama and run on a budget of more sweat than money, I narrowly defeated the incumbent, Norman M. Pepersack, nearly one year after he fired me on the seemingly minor grounds of turning my police radio in four days late. With the full support of the Fraternal Order of Police, I took my ex-boss to court; claiming that my termination was unfair and was directed more at my personality than my professionalism.
Throughout the contentious court battle, Pepersack had attempted to undermine my credibility. He resorted to the same strategy for my campaign. A month before the election, he released to a Baltimore Sun reporter, confidential documents citing 11 disciplinary actions pending against me. The accusations ranged from a claim that I used law enforcement computer systems to obtain motor vehicle records for personal use to a complaint that I was too loud. I never saw the disciplinary record. Pepersack’s actions led the state prosecutor’s office to begin an inquiry to determine whether or not a criminal investigation of Pepersack should be conducted. The inquiry was later dropped.
But the Fraternal Order of Police and I filed suit against Pepersack for making public confidential personnel records, and a circuit court judge ordered him to stop releasing such files and not to retaliate against me for the lawsuits.
An article in the July 30 issue of the Sun heralded the race as, “a lively one.” Since I’ve kept a scrapbook of all the press my campaign generated, I agree with that initial assessment.
I was quoted: “I think they really hit the nail on the head with that comment, I guess what they meant by ‘lively one’ was that I was going to bring issues to the table. That’s what it’s about for me. Taking care of the people who work in the Sheriff’s Office. I’m not worried about getting re-elected, I’m worried about taking care of them.”
My message was apparently disturbing to some people in the Sheriff’s Office, however, since I found myself constantly besieged by sabotage attempts during my campaign.
In a rather dramatic climax to such sabotage efforts, my pickup truck, complete with campaign placards attached to the bed, was stolen just two weeks before the election. Four days later, I spotted it being driven along a road, followed it, lost it, then eventually found it again parked on a street.
When the thieves attempted to remove the placards, they did over $1,500 damage to my vehicle. Thirty dollars in cash, my checkbook and credit cards were left in the truck, but all my campaign materials were gone. While it has not been proven who actually stole my truck, I am certain it was not an ordinary car thief.
Who would think that someone would want to steal a truck with “Strasdauskas for Sheriff” all over it F. O. P. tags? A blind thief? Who the hell knows? But the thieves completely searched the truck. They were looking for something to incriminate me. Also, no fingerprints were found in the truck, not even my own, suggesting a professional job.
Ultimately, the attempts to damage my reputation proved (politically) fatal to Pepersack. It backfired because people were tired of that, and what I did was a lot of footwork going everywhere I could. People learned that I was a hard worker.
Someone with a new approach, a new personality, was apparently just what folks were looking for. Pepersack had a reputation of ruling the Sheriff’s Office with an iron fist, often employing revenge tactics with anyone who got on his bad side. He ruled by tyranny, fear and retaliation. It was unbelievable. People used to walk on eggshells! When I was elected, all that stopped.