Demmler Bankrolls Mullin: Commissioner Payback Time?

October 30, 2008

    We’re BAACK– Sorry to have taken a hiatus, but we were sick and tired,  and mostly sick. So since we don’t get paid for this,  it has taken us a while to report and write what our local “newspaper” with full time paid employees hasn’t: new campaign finance reports– filed 10/24/08– for local County Commissioner candidates. First, we’ll look at the 1st District Commissioner race between Republican Jim Mullin and Democrat Pamela H. Bailey.

     There’s not much to report on Pamela Bailey, who has not filed a detailed campaign finance report.  According to Cecil County election officials, she filed an affadavit saying she would not be raising or spending over $1,000, so she does not have to file a full report either on paper locally or online with the state Board of Elections.  In that case, we are surprised to see so many printed yard signs around her home base of Earleville. As she has stated to the public, she already has a full-time job as a secretary at the School of Technology and two part-time jobs. So who knows how much time she has to spare for fundraising, campaigning or actually serving as a County Commissioner.

    Without a serious opponent, Republican Jim Mullin of Earleville seems to be a shoo-in in the 1st District. But looking at his campaign finances, there is a very interesting angle: current County Commissioner Rebecca Demmler is his biggest donor. Could it be payback for the financial support Mullin gave her when she was running for County Commissioner in the last local election? Or could it be “pay it forward,” with Demmler donating to a pal she expects will vote along with her as a Commissioner?

    In his pre-general election report, Mullin states he has raised a total of $10,294 in individual, party committee and Political Action Committee donations.  He has also made a personal loan to his campaign of $8,550, which is counted as a separate line item in addition to the $10,294 in donations.

    But the telling category is the sub-set of individual and business donors, amounting to $7,094. Of that figure, current County Commissioner Rebecca Demmler made an outright donation of $2,000 on 5/03/08 and $500 on 9/15/08, for a total of $2,500– or nearly a third of all donations. Mullin also does not report individual identities of purchasers of tickets to his fundraisers– listing instead, a “lump sum” of receipts from two campaign fundraisers, amounting to a total of $1,429. So there is no way of telling whose other donations might be included under this anonymous category.

    Mullin also received a $1,000 Political Action Committee (PAC) donation from the Cecil County Lodge #2, Fraternal Order of Police in Elkton, on 9/25/08. But drilling down in his expenditures, you find he made a “transfer” of funds  of $280 out of his campaign treasury previously, on 7/24/08, to the same FOP lodge, “including ticket purchases.” So the net FOP cash into the Mullin campaign amounts to $720. The ‘transfer’ from Mullin to the FOP occurred before the FOP donation to him.

    Mullin also received $2,200 from the county’s Republican Central Committee. (Funny, but we didn’t see a Mullin donation to fellow Republican Robert Hodge, who chairs the GOP central committee and is running in the 5th Commissioner district, beyond a puny $25 fundraiser ticket.)

   It is also telling who hasn’t yet donated to Mullin’s campaign. No members of the local Republican state legislative delegation whose districts coincide with Mullin’s local turf–Del. Michael Smigiel, Del. Dick Sossi or Mr. Moneybags State Sen. E.J. Pipkin– have donated to Mullin. That is probably because they know a sure thing when they see it and are saving their cash for their own  re-election efforts, or other Republican candidates with more contested campaigns this year.

   But we are struck by Commissioner Demmler’s investment of such a large amount in the sure-thing candidacy of Mullin.  Both Demmler and Mullin are Republicans, but more than party loyalty is at work here, as we will document subsequently. (Demmler has made a hiccup $50 ticket purchases donation to fellow Republican Robert Hodge, running in the 5th District Commissioner race, while her husband has donated lots more to 5th District Democratic opponent Sharon Weygand and he also made a donation to write-in candidate Tom McWilliams in that 5th District contest. More on that in our next posting.)

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SHOW ME THE (Cecil County) POLITICAL MONEY

October 14, 2008

 

    From Woodward and Bernstein and Watergate to the Hollywood film, “Gerry Maguire,” there is something to be said for the phrases “follow the money” and “show me the money.” So in this election year, there are some interesting financial tidbits to be gleaned from looking at databases of donations to federal candidates (President or member of Congress) and national political party committees and PAC’s (political action committees) by residents of Cecil County.

   Spend a few hours searching on databases of the independent, non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics (www.crp.org) and their related political money database (www.opensecrets.org) and you will find some revealing trends in donations to federal candidates and political committees by residents of Cecil County, MD. This is a very reputable operation, which parses Federal Elections Commission data into a more user-friendly format. [But our research found a significant glitch in reporting of donations from one zip code in Cecil County—based on a repeated entry with a mis-placed comma. We advised CRP of our findings and await their correction of the database.]

    Nevertheless, the data show some interesting trends in how Cecil County residents are voting with their wallets this year, in comparison with the last time there was a presidential and Congressional election in 2004.

    The undeclared recession may be having an impact on political donations from Cecil County. In most zip codes, donations are down. The currently available data, however, compares full election cycle donations of 2004 with the not-yet-over cycle of this 2008 election year. There could be last-minute donations before the November election that would skew the numbers. But the economy was a lot better four years ago and by this close to the election time-frame, most donors have already opened their wallets this year and may be holding on to their scarce dollars in the next few weeks.

   Not surprisingly, federal campaign donations in Cecil County tend to go for Republican candidates and political party committees. So far this year, county-wide total donations to federal candidates and committees amount to $135,579, with Democrats garnering just 23 percent of donations, compared to Republicans’ 77 percent.

   In most Cecil County zip codes, donations so far this year are down from the 2004 presidential year. For example, in the Rising Sun zip code (21911) donations to all federal candidates and committees were $11,850 in 2004, but so far this year donations are down to $8,185. In the general Elkton zip of 21921, federal donations were $35,539 in 2004, but this year amount to $31,342 so far.

    One of the more interesting areas, the Chesapeake City zip code (21915) shows an increase in donations this year, with some fascinating twists. Republican Congressional candidate Andy Harris, seeking the 1st District seat, received $3,300

 

from David Williams, of Williams Automotive, while other zip residents supported Harris’ rival in the Republican primary, incumbent Wayne Gilchrest, to the tune of $2,225. Harris beat Gilchrest in the GOP primary. Overall, Chesapeake City donors gave $7,500 in the 2004 federal election cycle, but so far this year the tally is up to $10,091.

   Little Cecilton, with around 500 or so residents, registers one of the largest gains this year, compared with 2004. Last time around, Cecilton donors gave just $200 to federal candidates. So far this year, the Cecilton tally is up to $3,300. We looked at specific donations and found that just 3 donors made the big difference.  There was $800 from Caroline Arms and $1,500 from Myron Arms, all donated to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Also, Samuel C. Toll donated $1,000 to Ron Paul, the Libertarian-leaning Congressman from Texas who was seeking the Republican presidential nomination this year.

    We tried to contact the Arms family to interview them regarding their Obama support and only found a phone listing for them at an address in Earleville (zip code 21919.) We did not receive a callback. But their federal donation address was listed as Cecilton, so we are including their contributions in the Cecilton zip category.

   There were some other interesting individual donations and trends. In the Port Deposit area, (zip 21904) donations in 2004 to federal candidates amounted to $2,932. But so far this year, donations are up to $5,850 from that area.

    A good part of that increase is attributable to the $1,000 donation to anti-regulation, Libertarian Ron Paul from Rupert Rosetti. Mr. Rosetti is aligned with anti-growth forces in Cecil County, advocating increased government regulation of property and land uses. Mr. Paul opposes increased government regulation of just about everything.

   As the old saying goes, politics—and political money—make strange bedfellows.

 

(Editors’ Note: This analysis is based on federal data filed as of 9/30/08.  Federal rules require updated information to be filed this week. It takes a few days for the data to be entered into databases. The Cecil Times will update this issue and file a new report and analysis, as soon as the updated information is available from federal sources.)


Labels, Geography and ‘Rockfish Republicans’

October 9, 2008

 

    Labels tell us a lot when we go to the supermarket but picking a political candidate is usually more complicated than picking the soup with the lowest sodium content. That’s why political labels or even party affiliations may be less important than geography for Cecil County voters this year.

 

  Consider the 1st District Congressional race between Republican Andy Harris, of Baltimore County, and Democrat Frank Kratovil, of Queen Anne’s County on the Eastern Shore. Harris brands Kratovil a “liberal” and Kratovil’s ads say Harris is “way out there” on the right wing. So much for labels.

 

   Harris upset incumbent Rep. Wayne Gilchrest in the multi-candidate Republican primary by carrying counties on the Western Shore.  The Eastern Shore was no-man’s land for Harris. Even in Cecil County, where Gilchrest had lots of GOP critics, Gilchrest beat Harris with 32.8 percent of the vote, in contrast to the 31.3 percent share Harris took in Cecil.  (Gilchrest always had a harder time in his own party primary than he did in general elections, when he won considerable support from Democrats. Hardcore conservative Harris can’t expect comparable Democratic support in November.)

 

    But Kratovil has his own problems in Cecil County. He lost the county in the primary to Christopher Robinson in a 4-way contest, with 30.2 percent of the vote to Robinson’s 32.9 percent. Yet Kratovil racked up solid margins in other Shore counties and the Baltimore County, Harford County and Anne Arundel County portions of the district.

   

   Now Kratovil is leaning on what some pundits call the “Rockfish Republicans”—moderates on both the Eastern and Western Shore who supported Gilchrest in the past. Gilchrest himself has endorsed Kratovil as have several Republican county commissioners in Kent and Caroline counties on the Shore.

 

   For the general election, Shore residents are a majority of the district’s electorate so if Shore residents voted purely on the basis of geography, Shore resident Kratovil would win. Of course, most people vote on other factors, like party label, and national issues like the economy or the war in Iraq.

 

  But geography isn’t such a bad way to pick a horse in this race. Gilchrest had to drive over the Bay Bridge just about every night to come home from his Washington job. His Kennedyville house was down the street from a little grocery where locals could collar him on any problem, from the crab harvest to the closing of the soup factory in Chestertown.

 

   Queen Anne’s county, Kratovil’s base, is a stretch from Cecil but it shares a lot of the same problems: Bay shoreline and pollution concerns, development pressure, transportation problems, and a lack of local jobs that forces residents to commute over a bridge to jobs on the Western Shore. Sound familiar?

   

   Historically, the 1st District has been represented by a resident of the Shore, except for a brief hiatus when a rural Southern Marylander held the seat before Gilchrest. But this time, the choice is between a Shore resident and a suburban Baltimore County resident. We don’t think they set trot-lines in Baltimore County or know what it’s like to spend $8 or more in gas to travel long distances to buy groceries or get medical care.

 

  So maybe the label or slogan that matters here is “Shore-nuff” or “Vote Local.”

 

 

 

 

 


First District Congress Race Gets National Attention

October 9, 2008

  The 1st District race for Congress, between Democrat Frank Kratovil and Republican Andy Harris,  has been getting more attention, and treated as more of a contest, by national non-partisan analysts.  Stuart Rothenberg rates the 1st as a “Republican favored” race as of September 30. But Rothenberg had to eat his words of just a few months ago when he predicted that there was no way Democrats could pick up as many as 30 seats in the House. Now he admits Democrats are likely to gain 20 seats and a 30 seat gain is entirely possible.

 

 (Read his latest post here:  http://www.rothenbergpoliticalreport.blogspot.com/

 

  Charlie Cook, who publishes the influential non-partisan Cook Political Report, recently upgraded the 1st to a ‘leans Republican’ rating from a Republican favored status.

 

    The Politicker political website rates the contest as the 52nd most competitive House race in the country while the independent Real Clear Politics website, which has become a bible for political junkies and pundits nationwide, lists the 1st District as number 45 on its list of the 50 most competitive House contests.

 ( Read their report here: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/09/top_house_races_continued.html

 

   Kratovil has some well-connected Marylanders in his corner, including Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County, who also heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. (DCCC) The DCCC has pledged up to $1 million to support Kratovil and has bought $250,000 in TV air time for a new ad running on Baltimore and Salisbury stations.

 

 Read about the ad here:

 http://www.politickermd.com/danielreiter/3832/dccc-ad-harriss-friends-arent-your-friends

   

 


Good Delaware Medical News for Southern Cecil County

October 6, 2008

   For those of us living South of the C&D Canal, especially in the off-the-highway rural areas, there is good news for our health and our lives: the world-renowned Christiana Care Health System of Delaware has purchased a 108-acre site in Middletown, DE to develop a  24/7 state-of-the-art emergency room and medical facility with advanced and specialized health care. This would be the closest advanced medical facility for our southern Cecil communities.

   Right now, the theoretical “closest hospital,” under Emergency Medical Services (i.e., county ambulance)  transport rules, is Union Hospital in Elkton, unless you are living right up against the border to Kent County, MD and its proximity to Chestertown and their University of Maryland Medical System-affiliated hospital.  But for most of us southern Cecil residents, any critical medical situation now usually requires transport to Union Hospital. If you know your rights under Maryland law, to demand transport to a more advanced hospital, you can then insist on transfer, after initial Union Hospital delivery, to the Christiana campus in northern Delaware, where you have access to 24-hour advanced and critical medical care.

   Please, before all the Union Hospital donors and advocates attack us for this reporting of the facts, we realize that Union is a lot better than it used to be and that there are lots of fund-raising efforts on its behalf.

  But my own personal experience, that of friends, and data available with some difficulty from Union, shows that Union is hardly a world class facility. When I fell and broke my leg a few years ago on a Saturday morning, I was told “we don’t have any orthopedist… call us back on Monday.” When I had a life-threatening asthma attack, the nurses were wonderful and literally saved my life. A foreign “doctor” who spoke minimal English stuck her head in after the nurses saved me and said, “you ok?” without ever examining me. Of course, she and Union’s sub-contracted emergency services operation billed me several hundred dollars for that in-passing comment.

  We have received some of the glitzy printed newsletters and directories from Union, extolling the virtues of its services and staff. We were surprised that they glossed over the credentials of some medical folks whom I know were D.O.’s or osteopaths. They were unwilling to admit that many of their staff docs are not M.D.’s. So I called their PR officer and inquired about the credentials of the docs they were touting. I was told they did not disclose the degree– D.O. or M.D.– or educational credentials of their docs.

  Union has added some top caliber folks– like Dr. Ma, a Georgetown University MD, as chief of staff– and Dr. DeMuth, a Dartmouth grad, as a consulting orthopedist and surgery chief. But especially for emergency situations, that caliber of care is lacking at Union. It is the norm at Christiana.

   For us southern Cecil folks, we will have to wait a bit– but probably not for too long– for a top quality Christiana facility in Middletown. The proposed facility would be located at Route 1 and Del. 299, just east of downtown Middletown. The town board and mayor are ecstatic about this positive addition to that growing community and the zoning is in place already.

 “This is something you dream about and it’s been talked about for a long time,” Middletown Mayor Ken Branner told the Middletown Transcript. “Now that it is becoming a reality, it’s really unbelievable.”

   The state legislative delegation is also over-the-moon with support for the Christiana facility.

    Some of us southern Cecil County residents remember that it was just 6 or so years ago that we even got a south-of-the-canal paramedic unit assigned to our area by the county. My community is full of stories about the many people who died while waiting an hour or more for an ambulance in the past. Thankfully, our ambulance service has improved. But it is equally important where you get transported to when your life is at stake.


Priapi Gardens: Cecilton Common Sense

October 4, 2008

  We’re BAAACK– Sorry, all, for taking a few days off but we had a crisis of sorts to deal with. But we are back with some observations on good things happening in our southern Cecil County neck of the woods.

    We stopped in to visit Vic and Mary Priapi, proprietors of Priapi Gardens in Cecilton, on Saturday as they were having their fall harvest event. Lots of fun things, all for free, on Route 213 in Cecilton. We say “IN” Cecilton, because a few months ago this treasure of a garden shop and nursery, value-added agriculture, agro-tourism and all around great place was actually outside the town limits of Cecilton. 

    It took a full blown town election, and a rather unpleasant political campaign, before a majority of Cecilton residents voted to welcome Priapi Gardens to the town so that the Priapi’s could be assured access to water they would need to expand their nursery business. The annexation issue was a microcosm of what is both wrong and right with any discussion of so-called “growth” in this county.

   Some folks– including one current county commissioner and one who aspires to the job– did a knee-jerk opposition to any ‘annexation’ regardless of the facts of the Priapis’ case. Others, including the African-American community in Cecilton that has for far too many years been ignored by the county and town power structure– took the time to listen to Vic and Mary’s case and decided that ‘change’ in Cecilton would be a good thing.  So for the first time in around 140 years, an annexation  was approved by the voters.

    Nothing much has changed since the annexation. Vic and Mary are still tending their gardens and organizing great community-building events like the Saturday harvest festival. There were crafts people, lots of Amish families offering food and hand-made items, a great blacksmith from Port Deposit demonstrating his artisanship, 4-H kids, the Farm Museum, and the Methodist congregation from Cecilton/Earleville offering free sodas, cookies and apples to visitors. One of our favorite ag businesses, Dove Valley Vineyards and Winery, was also on site as Janelle Hepbron Griffith explained the grape growing and wine-making operations of this  Rising Sun-based award-winning winery and vineyard operation.

  Oh, Phyllis Kilby’s “Moo-mobile” ice cream truck was there, too, but our Queen of Ice Cream (or Baroness of the Board of Appeals) did not show up. We think she is nervous about appearing south of the Canal, where real farmers live and work and ‘have her number.’