Former Cecil County Schools Superintendent Carl Roberts has created a campaign fundraising committee, according to online state election records, but has not yet formally declared his expected candidacy for the 4th District County Commissioner seat currently held by Democrat Wayne Tome.
Dr. Roberts, who served as the schools chief from 1996 until his retirement in 2008, filed papers for “Friends of Carl Roberts,” a campaign finance committee, in February and named two political unknowns as campaign officials. Eugene Caffey, of Port Deposit, is his campaign treasurer and Linda Dyekman, a Chesapeake City graphic designer, is his campaign chairman. Dyekman is a member of BEPAC, the Business and Education Partership that links local businesses with county education programs.
Since leaving the county schools post, Dr. Roberts has served as executive director of the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland and has been the legislative liaison (lobbyist) for the Council of Education Adminstrative and Supervisory Organizations. Last year, he applied to become Superindendent of Schools for Harford County, but he was passed over and another applicant won the job.
Although technically a “newcomer” to election politics, Roberts is a seasoned player in the county political game. He managed to convince successive boards of commissioners to boost education spending dramatically and delivered rising test scores in county schools. But he was also criticized by some as fostering a costly, top-heavy administrative staff.
Roberts has been contacting various political and community leaders for months to solicit their support for a primary challenge to Tome. While some Democrats have cautioned against a challenge to the incumbent Tome, others, including some Republicans, have been encouraging a Roberts campaign, according to informed sources.
Tome said in an interview with The Cecil Times that he plans to seek re-election and filed paperwork to form his campaign finance committee a few days ago, although it has not yet been posted online by the state Election Board. Tome said he would postpone a formal announcement of his candidacy until completion of the current county budget process. “I want to concentrate all my efforts on doing the business of Cecil County in this important process,” Tome said.
“He’s a very knowledgable and smart individual,” Tome said of Roberts. “But I believe I have a lot more experience on a wider range of county issues, and I feel we need to continue the progress we’ve started.”
Tome, an officer in the Baltimore County Fire Department for many years, has been a leading advocate for Cecil County’s politically influential fire companies and public safety spending. However, he has questioned the potential costs of binding arbitration sought by county Sheriff’s Deputies. As a result, some of his base of support has been undermined as Republican members of the state legislative delegation push state legislation to hold a referendum on the issue.
Roberts was always an outspoken advocate of increased education spending by the county in the budget process, a position that often pitted his agenda against other county agencies, including the Sheriff’s department.
Meanwhile, a candidate can create a finance committee and solicit donations even before filing the formal paperwork to declare candidacy for elected office, according to state Elections Board officials. But someone who has formally filed as a candidate may not solicit contributions until the separate finance committee paperwork is filed. This year, candidates for county offices must file an ongoing campaign committee with electronic reporting of donations. In the past, local candidates could file “personal treasurer” reports that were filed on paper locally and not searchable online.
A Republican, Mike Dawson, has already filed his candidacy and begun fundraising for the 4th District seat. Dawson, a former Prince George’s County police officer, is a newcomer to the county and county politics but has been active with the Cecil County Young Republicans Club. The club is expected to field candidates from its membership in all three of the Commissioner seat contests this year.
The Cecil Times has calls in to Roberts and will update this report upon his response.
UPDATE: We didn’t receive a callback but Roberts has formally announced that he is running for Tome’s Commissioner seat. He has posted a website, http://www.electcarlroberts.com/home.html
His campaign theme is “Leadership for the Future” and includes lots of vintage family photos under the “biography” section. We assume more detailed information will be upcoming.
Tome has filed his campaign finance committee report and lists Peter Kirksley as Treasurer and Tim Snelling as committee chairman. Snelling is himself a former unsuccessful commissioner candidate and has served for several years on the county liquor board.