Party (Line) Time in Cecil Voting, Except for Congress

November 5, 2008

  The unofficial returns for Cecil County in the Tuesday election show some interesting patterns in party-line voting from the top to bottom of the ballot, with the exception of the too-close-to-call 1st District race for Congress between Democrat Frank Kratovil and Republican Andy Harris.

 Countywide, Republican presidential candidate John McCain carried Cecil with 56.41percent of the vote to Democratic President-to-be Barack Obama’s 41.28 percent. Independent Ralph Nader won 1 percent of Cecil’s vote.  McCain carried all but 4 of Cecil’s 19 election precincts.

 Kratovil won 18,643 votes to Harris’ 17,992, giving Kratovil 49.2 percent of Cecil County votes to Harris’ 47.5 percent. Kratovil had a majority in all but 8 of the county’s 19 election precincts, with Harris’ support concentrated in the western areas of the county. Kratovil also carried every county on the Maryland Eastern Shore, while Harris carried the Western Shore areas of Harford, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties included in the district. The state election board reported Kratovil ahead by just 916 votes district-wide, so the contest won’t be decided until absentee and overseas ballots are counted.

   Locally, the 5th District County Commissioner race put Republican Robert Hodge ahead by just 328 votes over Democrat Sharon Weygand, with all 19 county precincts reporting. Absentee votes might still alter the outcome. The local elections board reported Hodge received 18,166 votes, or 49.54 percent, to Weygand’s 17,838, or 48.64 percent of the vote. There were 669 write-in votes– most of which probably went to Tom McWilliams.

    The 1st District County Commissioner race predictably went to Republican Jim Mullin, with 20,663 votes, or 57 percent, to Democrat Pamela H. Bailey’s 15,373 votes, or 42.4 percent.

   County commissioners are elected by all voters in the county, not just those living in the districts the commissioner will represent. So voting patterns in each of the county’s 19 precincts are illuminating: if a precinct went heavily for Republican presidential candidate McCain, voters tended to vote Republican in the local contests. And precincts favoring Democrat Obama tended to vote Democratic locally.  

  Just four Cecil County precincts went for Obama: Thomson Estates, Holly Hall, Cecil Manor and North East Elementary. In each of those precincts, Democratic candidates for commissioner pulled in their highest margins. In other precincts with heavy McCain support, Republican commissioner candidates racked up strong margins over Democrats.

   The Cecil Manor precinct had the highest proportion of pro-Obama votes, with 65.55 percent to McCain’s 31.36 percent. Fifth District Democrat Weygand followed suit, racking up her highest 66.86 percent of the precinct tally to Republican Hodge’s 31.83 percent. First District Democrat Bailey made her best showing, with 65.41 percent to Republican Mullin’s 34.59 percent. In Holly Hall and North East Elementary precincts, the Democratic commissioner candidates racked up healthy margins over their GOP opponents, too. Thomson Estates, while giving Obama 51.74 percent of its votes, gave Democrat Weygand 55.82 percent of its votes while Democrat Bailey actually lost by just 9 votes.

   On the Republican side, Conowingo was McCain country, giving him 69.56 percent of the vote to Obama’s 27.47 percent. Republican Hodge racked up his highest proportion, 60.87 percent. The Rising Sun banquet hall precinct gave McCain 68.74 percent of the vote, to Obama’s 29.3 percent. Republican Hodge pulled in 60.38 percent of the vote in his commissioner race, to Democrat Weygand’s 38.25 percent.

   So when some folks say party labels don’t matter in local county contests, that may not be the case in a presidential election year.

   It is also important to note the numbers of Cecil County voters who cast ballots for president but did not cast any vote at all in the two commissioner races.  There were 39,558 votes cast for president by county voters, but 3,495 voters did not pick a candidate in the 1st District commissioner race and 3,009 voters left the 5th District commissioner contest blank. That usually means voters are clueless about the local candidates and issues in their campaigns so they don’t vote at all on the local sections of the ballot.

Fifth District Commissioner Race: Home Cookin’ and Stewart’s Money

November 3, 2008

  The Republican and Democratic opponents in the Fifth District contest for Cecil County Commissioner have raised comparable amounts of campaign contributions, while write-in candidate Tom McWilliams has a secret weapon: his wife’s home cooking, according to campaign finance reports filed Oct. 24.

    But some supporters of the two major candidates might be surprised at just who is donating to them.

   McWilliams, a perpetual candidate who has previously run unsuccessfully for Commissioner and a school board seat, lost the Republican primary to Robert Hodge, a local businessman and farmer. McWilliams is waging an uphill struggle as a write-in candidate in the November election and has held yard sales and picnics, raising just $886 in direct contributions and $1,050 in fundraiser ticket purchases. He also loaned his campaign $6,000 in October. McWilliams lists $372 in in-kind donations, such as food and drinks for fundraising events. While several people donated appetizers valued at $10, his wife’s culinary contribution was valued at $50. A smart husband knows to compliment his wife’s cooking, even in politics.

     Hodge reports raising a total of $21,405, including loaning his campaign $3,000. His Democratic opponent, Sharon Weygand, reports raising a total of $19,637, with no loans. The candidates are running for the seat now held by Commissioner Mark Guns, who decided not to run for re-election.  Hodge has had a high-profile candidacy all year, with many paid billboard sites on highways around the county.  Weygand seemed to have a lower profile–waving hand-held signs on Route 40– so it is perhaps surprising to see that she raised so much money and had no loans, according to the October reports.  There could still be a last minute infusion of cash on both sides in the last week or so before the election, but we won’t know the final contributions tally until after the election when new reports are filed.

     Weygand’s largest chunk of donations– $3,000– came from two entities related to the Stewart’s land development business: $1,500 from Stewart Associates Land Development, Inc.,  and $1,500 from York Building Products Co. Both firms have the same address in York, PA and are part of the Stewart Companies. Stewart’s, one of the largest landowners in the county, is banking heavily on approval of the statewide slots referendum and has signed an option deal with Penn National gaming that wants to develop a slots facility on Stewart land in Cecil County. York Building Products operates three sand and gravel production sites in Cecil County.

   The Stewart-related donations amounted to more than a quarter of Weygand’s $11,555 in contributions from individuals and businesses. That might surprise some of the no-growth folks who made small donations to her campaign, too.

 Other major donations to Weygand include $1,000 from Klines Live Fish Co. in Chesapeake City; $1,000 from Hutton Farms in Elkton, and $500 from Alice Arbuckle, who ran unsuccessfully for County Commissioner in the last local election and famously advocated county-hosted camel races as a tourist attraction. Weygand also received $345 from the husband (Ron) of County Commissioner Rebecca Demmler,  $200 from former County Commissioner and restauranteur Phyllis Kilby, $100 from retiring County Commissioner Bill Manlove, $80 from Commissioner Wayne Tome and $20 from Commissioner Brian Lockhart. 

    Weygand also received a $1,000 donation from the Political Action Committee (PAC) associated with Lodge 2, Cecil County Fraternal Order of Police, which endorsed her candidacy; $500 from the county’s Democratic Central Committee; $750 from the county Democrat Club and $100 from the campaign of Frank Kratovil, the Democratic nominee in the 1st District Congressional contest.

    Weygand did not disclose individual identities for most of the ticket purchasers for her fund-raising events, tallying a total of $5,613 in ticket sales.

   On the Republican side, Hodge reported individual and business donations of $7,140– actually, less than Weygand’s $11,555. Unlike Weygand, Hodge reports amounts and identities for ticket purchases by individuals and businesses, totaling $6,465.

    Hodge’s largest individual donation of $1,000 came from Railroad Associates Corp. of Hershey, Pa. A local business, Graphics Inc., gave $500 plus $500 in ticket purchases, for a total of $1,000. Norman Wehner, a local property owner active with the county landlord’s association, donated $500 plus purchased fundraiser event tickets worth $100. James Buckland, an executive with Artesian water that recently won County Commissioners’  approval for its takeover of county water and sewer facilities, bought Hodge fundraiser tickets worth $150.

 Most of Hodge’s donations were fairly small and many came from recognizable Republicans around the county. Business entities donating included Perrin Accounting of North East ($500 in donations), Priapi Gardens in Cecilton ($200 in ticket purchases); Kingfisher Environmental  Services, Inc., of Elkton ($200 in ticket purchases.) There were also fundraiser ticket purchases from some individuals involved in real estate, such as $250 in tickets bought by Harlan Williams and his wife.

    Hodge also received $2,500 from Republican clubs and $2,200 from the county’s GOP central committee. Del. Dick Sossi (R) bought a $25 fundraiser ticket, as did Republican commissioner 1st District candidate Jim Mullin. Commissioner Rebecca Demmler– a fellow Republican and the chief donor to Mullin’s campaign, giving him $2,500– anted up just $50 for Hodge fundraiser tickets.

   Which just goes to show: in politics, it isn’t always just about politics or party labels.