Chris Sutton, the announced Democratic candidate for Cecil County Sheriff, had a banner year for fundraising but ended up with just $8,718 in cash on hand going into this election season. That won’t go far in a potential general election re-match against incumbent Republican Sheriff Barry Janney, one of the most successful fundraisers in county political history.
Janney did not comply with state election law requiring campaign finance report filing last week. But in his last filed report, covering 2008, Janney’s campaign fund had $15,895 in cash on hand.
Sutton has taken a page from Janney’s political playbook: golf fundraisers. Most of Sutton’s larger donations are the result of a golf tournament fundraiser he held, but he also did smaller events such as a picnic and a dinner and silent auction in Cecilton.
According to filings with the State Board of Elections, Sutton raised $38,313 in 2009. But his expenses totaled $29,595– including $14,544 in fundraising costs. The golf tournament expenses amounted to more than half of the fundraising costs.
Sutton also spent $8,321 on “media,” including ads in the Cecil Whig and the creation of his website, www.suttonforsheriff.com . Sutton has an unusually well-designed website for a Cecil County candidate, with a moving ticker listing crime news headlines and a video of the candidate speaking directly to voters.
Sutton’s largest donations came from businesses, including a $500 golf sponsorship and donation of a gift certificate valued at $400 from Outdoor Adventures, Inc. in Baltimore. CMPFire, LLC of Newark, DE donated a $500 golf sponsorship and $315 in tickets and auction purchases at the Cecilton fundraiser. Other $500 donors included Corron Trash Removal of North East, John Sentman of Elkton, and Charles Carroll of Florida.
So far, Sutton is the only announced Democrat in the race but there have been rumblings that Skip DeWitt, a deputy and the son of a former popular sheriff, might get into the fray and challenge Sutton in the Democratic primary.
Sutton is no newcomer to politics after his unsuccessful challenge to Janney in the last election. Janney outspent and outgunned Sutton during that campaign. But this time Sutton is much better known in the county and has spent the last several years making the rounds of local events as a candidate-in-waiting.
In addition, Sutton has enlisted a young campaign treasurer, Patrick Tuer, who helped organize the local Young Democrats club and is savvy in social networking and online organizing. So far, Sutton’s campaign reports do not show online fundraising but that could be a source of growth for his campaign as the election contest heats up.
“We’re really excited,” Sutton said of his fundraising in an interview with The Cecil Times. “Especially in this economy, I don’t think we could have done any better.”
Sutton plans to hold a dinner-dance fundraiser in Fair Hill on April 9 and another golf tournament on May 7 in Rising Sun. He said he will also hold free meet-the-candidate events around the county this summer. His goal is to raise up to $90,000 for his campaign– a figure that would make him very competitive with Janney, given the incumbent’s past six-figure warchests.
Janney formally anounced his candidacy for re-election recently and defended his record and accomplishments. But he faces a challenge in the Republican primary from a deputy and political newcomer, Dan Slater. (See previous Cecil Times posting on Slater’s campaign finances.) That means Janney will have to focus his attention, and some campaign money, on the primary.
So far, Janney hasn’t updated his old campaign website, http://www.janneyforsheriff.com which notes that the 2006 election is “behind us.” Slater has a very detailed website, http://www.slaterforsheriff.com .