In Cecil County, political history often repeats itself, with a few twists and turns. So it was with surprise, but not shock, that we saw that Cecil County Commissioner James Mullin (R-1st)–with many other “AKA” names on state campaign finance records– is the chief funder of the campaign of Republican political newcomer Chris Zeauskas, running for the Republican nomination for County Commissioner in the Second District.
Zeauskas, a leader of the Cecil County Young Republicans Club and the declared president of a group called “Cecil Citizens Against Taxation,” is seeking the Republican nomination for the 2nd District Commissioner seat currently held by Rebecca Demmler, a Republican who has declared she is not a candidate for re-election.
(Another announced candidate for the Republican nomination for the seat is Tari Moore, a former official with the county Chamber of Commerce and the former campaign manager for current Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5). The only announced Democratic contender for the seat is Earl Piner, Sr., an Elkton town commissioner, former School Board member and longtime community volunteer and youth sports coach.)
But there is one real surprise in Zeauskaus’ campaign finance report filed with the state Board of Elections: one of his biggest fundraiser supporters is Democratic candidate for Sheriff Chris Sutton and his campaign organization. Only in Cecil County…
Zeauskas’ finance report shows total fundraising of $4,647, with expenses of $4,367. But since the January report is his first, a line item sure to get the attention of State Board of Elections auditors is the listing of a $1,165 “prior balance” in his campaign account, with no disclosure of where that money came from. That said, he lists his net cash on hand as $1,445.
Under contributions, “Jim Mullin” of “Chesapeake City” (actually, Commissioner James Mullin lives in the Hacks Point community in Earleville), is listed as donating $1,575–or the vast majority of Zeauskas’ contribution total of $2,142. Under fundraiser tickets, “Jim Mullin” is listed as the top purchaser, with $450 in ticket purchases to a fundraiser at the Patriots Glen golf clubhouse.
That makes Commissioner Mullin the top total contributor–$2,025– to Zeauskas’ campaign.
Zeauskas was an outspoken antagonist to Commissioner Hodge at the county’s January preliminary budget hearing. He did not attack Commissioner Mullin, who also voted for the county’s last budget.
Chris Sutton, a county Sheriff’s Deputy and second-time Democratic opponent to incumbent Republican Sheriff Barry Janney, shows up as a surprise donor to Republican Commissioner candidate Zeuaskas: Sutton is listed as purchasing fundraiser tickets totaling $225, with another $45 in ticket purchases by Sutton’s campaign treasurer, Patrick Tuer, a “Cecil County Young Democrats” activist.
The Mullin cash infusion to Zeauskas’ campaign is strangely familiar. When Mullin ran for county Commissioner in the last election, Republican Commissioner Rebecca Demmler was his chief campaign bankroller, as the Cecil Times reported here:
Demmler spent more on Mullin’s campaign than she did on her own. Prior to becoming a county Commissioner, Demmler never held a more financially lucrative job than an occasional substitute teacher job and her husband is a retired boiler operator. Those facts led many county political observers to wonder whether some other Republican– perhaps a “large” presence in county and state GOP politics– was really the bankroller. The latest Mullin donations may revive that sort of speculation.
NEWS UPDATE: In an interview with The Cecil Times, Zeauskas said his campaign treasurer was working with the State Elections Board to resolve issues surrounding his listing of a previous campaign balance that seemed to be a “mistake.” He said the bankrolling of his campaign by Commissioner Mullin stemmed from his past volunteer involvement in Mullin’s campaign as a “door to door” campaign volunteer. He said he believed that Commissioner Demmler was planning to support his primary opponent and that he had “nothing personal” against Commissioner Hodge.
“It wasn’t a budget question,” Zeauskas said of his aggressive questioning of Commissioner Hodge at the January budget hearing. He said he opposed a county takeover of utilities lines from Port Deposit that would serve the proposed Bainbridge complex. He noted that Mr. Mullin opposed that takeover. He said that his primary campaign issue, however, was the budget and county spending.
As far as Chris Sutton’s support– along with a generous donation from the Cecil County FOP– Zeauskas said he had met with local law enforcement officials to discuss crime and believed they liked his views. He said he supports binding arbitration for Sheriff’s deputies’ labor disputes, a controversial budget issue. Some current Commissioners fear that an outside arbitrator would force the county and its taxpayers to fund a potentially costly labor settlement regardless of county resources. (See Chris Sutton’s comment posted below)
Zeauskas also said that Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36) was not taking an active supportive role in his campaign and had advised him that he would not be involved in the Republican primary for the Commissioner seat.