Del. Richard Sossi: Fundraising Success–But For Which Seat?

     Del. Richard Sossi (R-36-Queen Anne’s County) has indeed been “fundraising like mad,” as the Cecil Times reported on Twitter recently, and new campaign finance reports show that this early in Campaign 2010, Sossi has raised as much as he reported in his 2006 pre-general election campaign for Delegate. But this time, the unanswered question is whether his fundraising hard work will be used in a re-election campaign for Delegate or a run for the State Senate.

    The latest report for his campaign committee, “Citizens to Elect Richard Sossi,” filed right on time this week, shows that in 2009, he raised a total of $28,845. Less expenses of fundraisers, printing, etc., plus a carryover bank balance from 2008 of $8,380, Del. Sossi had a net cash-on-hand balance of $33,724.

    That compares favorably with his pre-general election finance report from the 2006 election, when he reported raising $29,973.

   The early-and-often fundraising indicates that Del. Sossi is getting prepared for the possibility that our resident political Sphinx, State Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-36), will come down from the mountain and tell us mere mortal voters whether he is giving up his Senate seat to challenge Andy Harris in the Republican primary for the 1st District Congress seat now held by Democrat Frank Kratovil.  In the event that Pipkin does decide to challenge Harris– which many Washington political handicappers think he will– Sossi would be well-positioned to mount a strong race for the vacated Senate seat.

    “It’s like chicken soup: it can’t hurt, ” Sossi said of his early fundraising during an interview with The Cecil Times Friday. Regardless of Pipkin’s decision, “either way, I’d be in better shape” with early fundraising, Sossi said. And having a healthy campaign fund will likely deter a serious primary challenger.

  Sossi’s fundraising report is the stuff of dreams for many candidates: lots of small donations, a sprinkling of modest Political Action Committee contributions, and loyal repeat donors. But there are a few small donations from interesting sources: $250 from Andy Harris’ state campaign committee and a token donation from the campaign committee of Donald Alcorn, an unsuccessful past Republican candidate for Queen Anne’s County Commissioner who has already filed for Pipkin’s Senate seat. Alcorn has done no fundraising and his campaign report consists of loans to himself.  So Sossi’s potential Senate primary opponent thought so highly of  Sossi that he donated to his campaign?  That’s every candidate’s dream campaign flyer.

    On the PAC front, Sossi raised $3,825 in 2009. PAC donors included Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers PAC ($500); the Restaurant Association of Maryland ($350); Emergency Medicine PAC ($250); and Constellation Energy PAC ($250.)

   Some of Sossi’s largest combined donations came from a consulting firm run by former House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell, Jr., the conservative Democrat  icon of Kent County politics who still keeps a hand in General Assembly issues as one of  nine currently registered lobbyists for Constellation Energy, according to State Ethics board reports. Mitchell’s Ryandy Chesapeake Bay Consulting, LLC donated a total of $1,250 to Sossi in 2009, plus a personal donation of $250 is listed to “Clayton Mitchell.”

   When the Kent County Commissioners re-named the county office building in Mitchell’s honor in 2008, minutes of the commissioners meeting report that only Sossi and Del. Mary Roe Walkup (R-36) from the state delegation showed up to honor him.  That may be part of Sossi’s appeal across the political lines to a Democrat like Mitchell: Sossi works the district and shows up anywhere and everywhere if there is a hand to be shaken.

    “Mr. Mitchell and I have met for coffee in Annapolis and I value his opinions as a conservative Democrat,” Sossi said, adding that “There aren’t too many of them left.”

 As far as fellow elected Republicans, Sossi’s latest report shows donati0ns totaling $125 from Cecil County Commissioner Robert Hodge (R) and $35 from Commissioner Jim Mullin (R). Absent from the list were Pipkin and fellow 36th District Republican Del. Michael Smigiel.

 Smigiel was maneuvering to run for the Senate seat if Pipkin should give it up but we are hearing that he is now telling Republicans that he plans to run again for Delegate. Sossi’s strong popularity in the District would have made for a bruising, uphill primary fight for Smigiel. And Smigiel is hoping to move up a notch in the House GOP leadership with the decision by the Minority Whip, Del. Christopher Shank, to seek a Western Maryland State Senate seat.

  Del. Sossi plans to keep up his fundraising so that “I’m ready to go, either way,” for Delegate or state senate. He added that he hopes to raise up to $50,000 for whichever campaign he wages this year. He’s more than halfway there already.

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