NOTE TO CECIL TIMES READERS:

July 30, 2010

Maybe it’s the record-breaking heatwave, or the volume of political news we’ve been posting lately, or a combination of weather and political hot air, but The Cecil Times blog has had some technical glitches that resulted in our chronological postings being suddenly interrupted by recyled posts from a year or more ago. So July 2010 postings on our front page were suddenly followed by posts from 2008 and that season’s political news. (That could be pretty confusing, although some of the candidates from the past are being recycled this year.)

  We think we’ve corrected the problem and things will flow again in order, with our most recent posts at the top of the front page. You can then click on the “previous posts” link at the bottom left corner of the front page to continue reading in chronological order for older posts on archived pages.

  You can also check our category or topic list in the box on the right side of the page to read articles from our archives on subjects of interest to you.

  And for 2010 politics news, check that page tab at the top of the blog. We’re posting links that will take you directly to all our 2010 political news posts.

  We apologize for any inconvenience. As Cecil Times has grown, we’ve been receiving a lot of positive support for expanding our little blog into a broader website outside the WordPress blogging universe. We are working on doing just that.  Some of you may have discovered our beta test site, but you should know that it is just a snapshot and does not yet reflect our latest news. We will keep readers informed as we grow The Cecil Times.

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36th Delegate Seat: With GOP Friends Like This, Who Needs Democrats?

July 28, 2010

   Queen Anne’s County Democrats have taken a pass on fielding a candidate for that county’s resident Delegate in the 36th District but incumbent Republican Richard Sossi got a last-minute challenge from an unexpected source: the former campaign treasurer for fellow 36th District Republican Sen. E.J. Pipkin’s failed race for Congress two years ago.

   Stephen S. Hershey, Jr. of Queenstown, an unsuccessful 2002 candidate for Queen Anne’s County commissioner and a political appointee in former Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s administration, filed his candidacy for the Delegate seat on July 6, the last day to file. No Democrat filed by that deadline to seek that party’s nomination for the seat and the county’s Democratic Central Committee had until July 21 to appoint a candidate to run.  But state election records show no such candidate was put forward.

   Hershey, a commercial real estate executive, served as an assistant secretary of the state Department of Planning and also as an assistant secretary in charge of state property management in the Department of Natural Resources in the Ehrlich administration. The Baltimore Sun reported at the time that Hershey was one of three “political appointees'” named by Ehrlich to newly created top positions at the planning agency. ( http://www.latimes.com/features/bal-jobs061603,0,5461236,full.story )

   In the 2008 election season, Hershey served as the campaign treasurer for E.J. Pipkin’s failed attempt to obtain the Republican nomination for the First District Congressional seat.  Federal Election Commission records show that Hershey, as treasurer, was cited for failure to file a required campaign finance report for the Pipkin campaign account and the campaign was fined $250 in September, 2009.

   In an interview with The Cecil Times, Hershey said he “had a lot of conversations,” including with Pipkin, about filing in the GOP primary for the House of Delegates seat. Since there was a period of uncertainty over Pipkin’s plans and whether he would run for his Senate seat again, “there were a number of us discussing the Delegate’s seat,” Hershey said. (If Pipkin had given up his Senate seat to run for another office, possibly state Comptroller, Sossi was expected to seek the Senate seat and give up his House seat.)

  Pipkin filed for re-election to his Senate seat on June 30, a week before Hershey filed for the Delegate’s race. Sossi filed for re-election to his House seat nearly a month before Hershey filed.

  “I think the timing was still correct” to run for the Delegate’s seat, Hershey said, adding that “most people I talked to about it” did not oppose his getting into the race. ( He did not speak to Sossi before filing.)

   “Everyone who knows me knows I’m a hard worker,” Hershey said.

    Hershey, 46, a native of Bowie, MD, has lived in Queenstown for more than ten years. He graduated from Catholic University and holds an MBA degree from George Washington University. He has been active in Queen Anne’s County GOP groups, including the Republican Central Committee and the county’s Republican Club. He has also done volunteer work and coached youth football.

   State campaign finance records show he donated $500 to Ehrlich’s gubernatorial campaign in 2006, a modest amount to have been rewarded with a plum assistant secretary’s job paying more than $74,000. Hershey said he worked hard as a volunteer for Ehrlich’s campaign. The state records also show Hershey donated $300 to Pipkin’s 2006 Senate re-election campaign. He has also made donations to the county Republican Central Committee but not to Sossi’s campaigns.

    Sossi, who has been aggressively fund-raising for more than a year in anticipation of a possible state Senate seat run, is well-positioned financially for a re-election bid  to the House and the fact that Democrats chose not to challenge him means he can aim most of his considerable warchest at Hershey in the GOP primary.   

     Sossi didn’t seem particularly concerned about Hershey’s late entry into the primary, telling The Cecil Times, “Well, he paid his filing fee, that’s his right.”  But, Sossi added, “I still haven’t heard why is he really running.”

   However, the political signs going up all over the 36th District might tell the tale.  In southern Cecil County, individual Hershey signs have been posted in clusters with joint  signs touting the candidacy of Pipkin and his comrade-in-GOP-arms, Del. Michael Smigiel, R-36. Our spies in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties tell us the same thing is going on there. Hershey’s small signs are brown and look like the candy bar of the same name, but with a few modifications to probably keep the trademark lawyers at bay.

   Individual Sossi signs are showing up in the company of joint Ehrlich for Governor and Andy Harris for Congress signs in Kent and Queen Anne’s, our spies tell us.  

   Sossi has been carving out an increasingly independent course from the Pipkin-Smigiel duo. He refused to co-sponsor their attempt to impose from Annapolis a  mandated Cecil County property tax rate on the county commissioners.  The Pipkin-Smigiel legislation was killed in Annapolis– an embarassing outcome for local lawmakers’ sponsorship of a local bill– after the Cecil County Commissioners hired a lobbyist and commissioners personally appeared in Annapolis to oppose the Pipkin-Smigiel gambit.

 (On their own, the Cecil County Commissioners cut the local property tax rate and potential revenues to the county in the new Fiscal 2011 budget, cutting the past rate to the “constant yield” tax rate. But, to meet their bare bones budget, the Commissioners then cut popular services such as free recycling of plastic bottles and cans at the county landfill.  Smigiel and Pipkin have attacked the Cecil County Comissioners repeatedly on tax issues but have been notably silent on the recycling and trash “fee” increase imposed by the majority Republicans on the five-member county board. One Democrat opposed it and the other Democrat abstained.)

     Sossi was the top vote getter in the 2006 House of Delegates races in the district. Under the arcane system for voting in the district, three Delegates are elected but each must be a resident of Cecil, Kent OR Queen Anne’s Counties. Residents of each county, as well as three precincts in Caroline County, cast ballots for three Delegates to represent the District. (In Cecil County, about half of the county is in the district, including southern Cecil, Elkton and a few westward precincts.)

   Sossi  is a graduate of the University of Colorado and served five years in the U.S. Navy, including duty in Vietnam. He also served his country as a deputy branch chief of the super-secret National Security Agency and received advanced training in Chinese language studies and cryptology.  Before running for political office, he owned and operated a military antiques store.


Elkton Senior Housing: Anatomy of a Deal

July 14, 2010

  When a private, profit-making developer proposed turning a series of dilapidated and vacant properties on High Street into a modern apartment building for senior citizens, Elkton town officials  were over-joyed.  Little did they know then that the project would bring them controversy, a court challenge, and a lot of headaches.

   The Elkton Alliance, whose executive director Mary Jo Jablonski was and is also a town commissioner, could barely contain its glee in 2009 when the Ingerman Group, of Cherry Hill, N.J., moved up in the state’s  priority list for federal housing assistance. (See link here:)    http://elktonalliance.blogspot.com/2009/03/high-street-senior-apartments.html

A majority of the town board has moved heaven and earth, as well as town ordinances, to accomodate the project, as documented in town meeting minutes ( see:  http://www.elkton.org/uploads/Meetings/Mayor%20and%20Commissioners%20Meetings/Minutes/MC12.16.09.pdf ) and Circuit Court proceedings brought by critics who questioned the way the town handled the project. (See also the excellent coverage of the town board on www.someonenoticed.wordpress.com as this issue wound its way through the town approval process.)

   The Ingerman Group has built senior housing and low income family housing projects along the East Coast for many years. Many of their projects have won design and environmental awards. (See homepage here: http://www.ingerman.com/index.php ) Indeed, the artist’s renderings of the Elkton project show a building that by any local standard would be a design asset to the community.

   But local residents have questioned why that location was selected for a residence for fragile seniors, in a dilapidated area known for crime and drug-dealing,  and the late-stage announcement of the developer’s decision to add a rather distant property on tiny Collins Street to the project. The Collins property was initially suggested by the developer as a “satellite parking” lot, raising questions about how many seniors or their visitors really would use a distant parking lot. Under questioning at town meetings and in court proceedings, the town eventually admitted that a parking lot could not legally be placed on the Collins property under town zoning law.

   So why continue to include the Collins street property in the project? David Holden, a self-described “development principal” for the project with the Ingerman Group, told The Cecil Times recently that a new decision had been made to use the Collins property as “open space and a garden for residents.”  The property is some distance from the proposed apartment building– estimated at 400 feet by some town commissioners at a December, 2009 meeting– but visually and physically seeming to be a much greater distance when walking the neighborhood.

   The Collins Street property is owned by Cecil Bank, which the developer has identified as providing partial private financing for the senior housing project. But most of the costs of the senior housing project are actually being borne by taxpayers through state and federal housing and economic stimulus programs.

   Apart from the local zoning and administrative issues that landed the project in court, the Elkton Senior Housing project has moved relatively quickly through the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (MDHCD) process for distributing both state and federal funds.  When the project met roadblocks– such as finishing  just out of the money on a competitive list of projects for a special federal economic stimulus program known as TCAP– the state found new ways to give the project other federal funds.

   State documents show that the Elkton Senior Housing project will receive $2 million in state Rental Housing Funds.  In addition, the state initially approved $1,068,551 in federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) for the project. Furthermore, the project was trying to obtain, but failed to win a competition for, even more federal aid, passed through the state MDHCD, under the federal TCAP (Tax Credit Assistance Program), state documents show.

 But when the Elkton project finished just out of the money on the competitive TCAP list, the state came up with a new way to keep the project rolling.

   The state, using federal funds, came up with more money under the Section 1602 Tax Credit Exchange Program for the Elkton project just a few months ago, according to a  4/26/10 state spreadsheet document obtained by Cecil Times. Under the arrangement, the Ingerman Group gave back $480,316 of its previous allocation of federal L0w Income Tax Credits and in return got $4 million in federal Section 1602 aid.

(However, that money, provided under economic stimulus initiatives, mandated that aided projects were “shovel ready.” Court proceedings showed that the Elkton project is far from “shovel ready” and the developers did not even own the land. Furthermore, the court action will require the project to go through town planning, zoning and town board approval procedures all over again.)

 Apart from whether the project abides by federal “shovel ready” rules,  to simplify the math and the gobbledegook of state and federal housing bureaucracy, the Ingerman Group is approved for a total of  about $6.6 million in taxpayer-provided subsidies. ($2 million in state rental housing funds, $588,235 in federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits, and $4,013,873 in federal Sec. 1602 aid)  The taxpayer-provided aid covers the vast majority of the project’s costs, initially filed with the state as $10.8 million. However, in recent days, the developer has upped the total costs to at least $11.5 million, including the costs of acquiring the Collins street property that was not mentioned in previous filings with the state.

   The Collins street property is owned by Cecil Bank, according to state property records, after a previous sale arrangement fell through and the property reverted to the bank. Cecil Bank’s parent company, Cecil Bancshares, recently signed an agreement with federal and state regulators requiring  the company to adhere to a host of regulations and procedures designed to assure greater oversight and financial accountability for its operations and non-performing “assets,” such as vacant properties. (See federal regulatory document here:  http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/press/enforcement/enf20100702a1.pdf

   As The Cecil Times previously reported here:  https://ceciltimes.wordpress.com/2010/07/13/update-1-elkton-sr-housing-loses-in-court-but-golden-parachute-firmly-in-place/  the county Circuit Court ruled Tuesday that the Town of Elkton did not have proper legal authority to grant fee waivers and concessions to the Collins Street property and the Ingerman Group project and the entire proposal must go through a “do-over” under town ordinances. But the town has been rapidly modifying a host of ordinances in recent weeks, which conveniently apply to the Elkton Senior Housing project, according to evidence presented in the court. So the do-over is expected to have the same outcome, in support of the project and the Collins Street property.

   One of the more interesting, and troubling, points raised during the court proceedings was the revelation by Keith Baynes, attorney for the winning plaintiffs against the town of Elkton, that the Ingerman Group had threatened his clients with lawsuits for daring to speak out and file their suit against the town. Such actions, known as “SLAPP” suits, (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) have been recognized under Maryland law for what they are: attempts to silence critics of public actions. State law sharply limits such lawsuits.


Update 1: Elkton Sr. Housing Loses in Court, But Golden Parachute Firmly in Place

July 13, 2010

ELKTON– The Town of Elkton agreed Tuesday afternoon to settle a lawsuit brought by two citizens challenging the concessions made by the town to accomodate a proposed senior citizens housing project, after a Circuit Court judge refused the town’s motion to dismiss the case.

     After the ruling by visiting judge Raymond E. Beck to let the case go forward, both sides hammered out an agreement under which the town conceded it lacked the proper legal authority under town ordinances last December when it granted concessions and waivers of fees to an unrelated property at 110 Collins Street, owned by Cecil Bank, and sought to transfer those waivers to the Elkton Senior Housing Project on High Street.  The town also agreed to pay $4,000 in legal bills incurred by the plaintiffs, Robert Litzenberg and James Nicholson.

   In addition, the developer of the project,  the Ingerman Group, of New Jersey, agreed not to sue Litzenberg and Nicholson. Keith Baynes, the attorney representing Litzenberg and Nicholson, told the court that the developer had threatened to sue his clients for speaking out about and filing their lawsuit over the town’s handling of the project.

   But evidence presented in court also showed that the Town of Elkton has been busy changing ordinances in recent weeks to accomodate the developers, in what appeared to be a back up plan in case the town lost the lawsuit.  So, while previous town approvals and concessions for the project were voided by the court settlement, the town, the developer and other interested business entities will get a “do-over” under recently revised ordinances tailored to fit the senior housing project.

    Before the agreement was reached, Judge Beck observed, “It seems that whenever a mistake was found you’re (the town) backing up and changing the ordinances.” It appeared that the town was saying, “can we make it all retroactive” when the question, the judge said, was really “shouldn’t they have to start all over again?” 

   As a result of the settlement, that is exactly what will have to happen: the developer and Cecil Bank, the owner of the Collins street property that is to be sold to the developer under a separate agreement, will get a “do-over” through the town review process. Given the town board’s support of the project, the outcome is hardly in doubt. But opponents will have a chance to raise more questions in public meetings.

  UPDATE: The court hearing revealed that the Town of Elkton has repeatedly revised its ordinances in recent weeks to accomodate the Elkton Senior Housing project. (The project is a profit-making undertaking by The Ingerman Group of New Jersey, with more than $6  million in federal aid, most of which has been passed through the state government, according to records of the state Department of Housing and Community Development.)

    Plaintiff’s attorney Keith Baynes pointed out that the senior housing project did not meet the minimum acreage requirements for such a project in Elkton under town ordinances in place at the time the concessions were made. The required acreage was 1.2 acres but a few weeks ago, a site plan submitted to town planning officials showed that the site was .2 acres short. So the developer, and representatives of the politically-connected Cecil Bank, asked the Cecil County government to sell more than 3,897 square feet of nearby county-owned land to the project. After a brief public hearing at which no citizens spoke out, the county commissioners voted in a subsequent work session in June to sell the land to the developer for $14,925. ( No independent appraisal of the land was performed, sources told The Cecil Times.)  Norman Wilson, the county attorney, signed off on the deal. Wilson also represented the Town of Elkton in Circuit Court on Tuesday.

   With the county land ostensibly in hand, the senior housing project would seem to meet the 1.2 acreage requirement. But, apparently taking no chances, the Elkton town board held a 4-minute public hearing in late June, at which no citizens spoke, and subsequently approved, on July 7, a revision to town zoning ordinances allowing a senior housing project to be located on just 1 acre of  land.  Judge Beck on Tuesday questioned that action, saying, “It seems that whenever a mistake was found, you’re backing up and changing the ordinances.”

   Attorney Baynes told the court Tuesday that the key issue was that, under town ordinances then in effect, the town lacked the legal authority to grant the Cecil Bank-owned property concessions on water and sewer and other fees that were then transferred to the Ingerman Group’s senior housing project. Under the settlement reached Tuesday, the town conceded that point.

   Baynes pointed out that the Ingerman group did not actually own the Collins Street property, or the High Street properties on which the actual 60-unit apartment project was to be located, at the time the concessions were made. He noted that the recent town board changes in relevant ordinances require an applicant for concesssions to actually own the properties in question. So as part of the “do-over” the developers would have to actually purchase the properties before being eligible for the fee waivers and concessions.

  The Ingerman Group told the State Department of Housing and Community Development that the cost of the project was $10.8 million, state records show. However, David Holden, a self-described “development principal” of the Ingerman Group, told The Cecil Times Tuesday that the actual cost of the 60-unit project was now up to at least $11.5 million. Part of the increased costs related to the token sum paid to county government for the small parcel sold recently to the developer. But much of that figure is related to the undisclosed amount that the developer will have to pay to Cecil Bank (a subsidiary of Cecil Bancorp) for the Collins Street property.

    The Collins Street property was not included in initial filings either with the state housing agency or the town of Elkton. That additon suddenly surfaced a few months ago as part of the water/sewer/and related fee charges that the Town decided to waive and were a target of the lawsuit.

    The Collins Street property owned by Cecil Bank, which the developer has identified as a partial financier of the senior housing project, is a derelict property condemned by Elkton health officials, according to town records. Cecil Bank is under current order by the Federal Reserve to clean up its inventory of “non-performing assets,” federal records show.  The Collins Street property, which reverted to bank ownership after a borrower defaulted, would fall into such a category.

    (MORE UPDATES TO COME FROM THE CECIL TIMES)

UPDATE:  An email from Kimberly Kamp, assistant administrator for the Town of Elkton, states that the Ingerman Group has agreed to pay the $4,000 costs ordered by the Circuit Court to be paid to the winning plaintiffs for their legal fees. In court, it was stated that the town would have to pay those fees.  Considering that the Ingerman Group now has to do a “do over” with the town of Elkton on its various c0ncessions, zoning enhancements, etc., under the court ruling, the developer’s decision to take on the fees levied by the court raises new questions to be addressed by opponents of the town  processes on this project.


BULLETIN: Town of Elkton Settles Lawsuit after Judge Refuses to Dismiss Case Against Concessions on Elkton Senior Housing Project

July 13, 2010

ELKTON– The Town of Elkton agreed Tuesday afternoon to settle a lawsuit brought by two citizens challenging the concessions made by the town to accomodate a proposed senior citizens housing project, after a Circuit Court judge refused the town’s motion to dismiss the case.

     After the ruling by visiting judge Raymond E. Beck to let the case go forward, both sides hammered out an agreement under which the town conceded it lacked the proper legal authority under town ordinances last December when it granted concessions and waivers of fees to an unrelated property at 110 Collins Street, owned by Cecil Bank, and sought to transfer those waivers to the Elkton Senior Housing Project on High Street.  The town also agreed to pay $4,000 in legal bills incurred by the plaintiffs, Robert Litzenberg and James Nicholson.

   In addition, the developer of the project,  the Ingerman Group, of New Jersey, agreed not to sue Litzenberg and Nicholson. Keith Baynes, the attorney representing Litzenberg and Nicholson, told the court that the developer had threatened to sue his clients for speaking out about and filing their lawsuit over the town’s handling of the project.

   But evidence presented in court also showed that the Town of Elkton has been busy changing ordinances in recent weeks to accomodate the developers, in what appeared to be a back up plan in case the town lost the lawsuit.  So, while previous town approvals and concessions for the project were voided by the court settlement, the town, the developer and other interested business interests will get a “do-over” under recently revised ordinances tailored to fit the senior housing project.

    Before the agreement was reached, Judge Beck observed, “It seems that whenever a mistake was found you’re (the town) backing up and changing the ordinances.” It appeared that the town was saying, “can we make it all retroactive” when the question, the judge said, was really “shouldn’t they have to start all over again?” 

   As a result of the settlement, that is exactly what will have to happen: the developer and Cecil Bank, the owner of the Collins street property that is to be sold to the developer under a separate agreement, will get a “do-over” through the town review process. Given the town board’s support of the project, the outcome is hardly in doubt. But opponents will have a chance to raise more questions in public meetings.

    (The Cecil Times will be filing a more detailed report, including information on the more than $6 million in federal taxpayer funds allocated to this project and its speedy progress through the state/federal approval process, despite the fact that the project was far from “shovel ready,” as mandated by the special economic stimulus funds allocated to it.)


36th Senate: Democratic Dances with Pipkin

July 9, 2010

 Comparing the two Democrats who have filed to run against incumbent Republican Sen. E.J. Pipkin in the 36th District Senate race is like comparing the 1960’s Bristol Stomp to a courtly minuet, or the classic English “contra dancing” performed professionally by one of the candidates.

  Former Elkton Mayor Robert Alt gets right to the point: “I would improve communications between the local municipalities and the county with our state delegation. It’s hard to get the state to hear our voices in Annapolis with our state delegation the way it is now.” (How does that old song go: “the kids in Bristol are sharp as a pistol when they do the Bristol Stomp…”)

   Steven Mumford, of Chestertown, making his first bid for elected office, said in an interview with The Cecil Times: “I don’t want to say anything bad about Senator Pipkin.”  (Cue the violins for a courtly rendition of Eighteenth Century ballroom dancing in a country castle…)

   The two Democrats will square off in the September primary for the expected chance to oppose Pipkin in November. Pipkin has a GOP primary challenger, Donald Alcorn, who is considered a longshot against the always well-financed (and usually largely self-financed) Pipkin campaign.

  Mumford is a political newcomer but members of his family are firmly planted in the Kent County political soil. His mother, Mabel Mumford-Pautz, is a  long time member of the Chestertown town council from Ward 3 and his brother, Mark Mumford, is Clerk of the Court.

   Mumford currently operates a business offering walking tours of historic houses in Chestertown and with his family has restored historic properties in the area. He has been a professional dancer, appearing in the movie “Wedding Crashers,” and currently dances with English contra dancing groups that peform at historical properties such as Mount Harmon in Cecil County. He has also coached youth swim teams. His Washington College Class of 1986 reunion profile is posted here:  http://1986.washcoll.edu/stevenmumford/

    Alt,49, grew up in Chesapeake City and attended Salisbury State. He was elected to the Elkton town council in 1994 and was elected mayor in 1998 and served until 2002.  He is also a former member of the Cecil County Democratic Central Committee. Alt was named “Outstanding Marylander of the Year” by the Jaycees in 2000 and he was a member of the Maryland Municipal League and served on several committees of the organization.

    Alt sees the problems in Annapolis from the perspective of the towns and counties in the 36th District, which includes about half of Cecil County, part of Caroline County, and all of Kent and Queen Anne’s counties. “I’m a municipality guy,” he said, adding that the towns, and in turn the counties, are suffering in difficult economic times and face dwinding aid from the state. That directly impacts local citizens, he said.

    The delegation could do more to promote local economic development, Alt said, and pointed to his own partnership role in re-developing the old Pirelli building in Elkton into a small business “hub” that is now about 40 percent occupied despite the current economic climate.

   Alt said the state delegation should work more co-operatively, both with each other and with the counties and towns on a wide array of issues.  But the current leadership of the delegation,  now chaired by Pipkin ally Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36), “doesn’t want to meet and they really don’t want to hear from anyone else,” Alt said. “They only want to have their own way and I believe that is being driven by Sen. Pipkin.”

    Alt said he was concerned with environmental issues and protection of the Bay and noted that Sen. Pipkin has had low scores from the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. Alt said he would actively seek support from environmentally-concerned voters. (The League has already endorsed Pipkin’s opponent, Alcorn, in the Republican primary.)

    Until finally filing for re-election a week before the deadline, Pipkin did a few dances of his own:  first tangoing with Andy Harris for a potential re-match in the GOP primary for a shot at the 1st District congressional seat, and then performing a dosie-do over whether to jump into the statewide race for comptroller against incumbent Democrat Peter Franchot. Finally, he decided to dance with the voters who first brought him to the 36th District Senate seat in 2002 and re-stamped his electoral dance card in 2006.

    “I’m not sure Pipkin knows what job he really wants,” Alt observed.

     Mumford said the biggest difference between himself and Pipkin is “I’m from here, the Eastern Shore, and he is not.” Pipkin grew up in Dundalk, in Baltimore county, and moved to Queen Anne’s County after retiring from a career as a junk bond trader in New York. Several years ago, Pipkin sold his waterfront estate and moved to Elkton, but he filed for re-election using a Queen Anne’s County mail box address.

    Mumford grew emotional as he talked about his love for the Eastern Shore, crying a bit as he spoke about growing up swimming in the Bay and “playing in the dirt” of the Shore. “I’m a passionate person,” he said.

    If Pipkin can recall whatever dance was popular in his Dundalk youth, this year’s 36th Senate contest might be a contender for broadcast on the TV show, “So You Think You Can Dance…”


GOP Central Committee Drama: So Many Candidates, So Few Seats

July 7, 2010

   Election 2010 in Cecil County is shaping up to have much of the drama, and a lot of the silliness, of a soap opera or one of those cheesy reality shows that you snicker at but continue to watch anyway. After all, we don’t have any movie theaters in Cecil County, no local TV and even the “local” radio station is really located in Harford County. So local politics provides some of our most interesting entertainment.

   The Republican Central Committee drama that unfolded on Tuesday as the filing deadline approached is a case in point. As the day began, only a few candidates had filed. Then suddently a steady trickle became a torrent of candidates for the nine available seats. By the end of the day, 22 candidates had filed.

   The candidates generally fall into three categories: incumbents and ‘mainstream’ Republicans, the Young Republicans Club aligned with Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-36) and Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36), and “Tea Party” advocates. Some candidates fall into more than one category, but in general here is the lineup:

   INCUMBENTS: (6 + 1)

      Joe Carabetta, current chairman of the GOP Central Committee and a longtime Republican activist in the county; Robert Amato, current vice chairman of the committee;  James W. Hutchinson, current secretary of the committee; Allen Andrichyn, member; Brad L. Carrillo, Jr., member; and F. Gaylord Moody III, member. (Moody has also filed to run for the GOP nomination for Register of Wills.)

    Tina Sharp, a longtime county Republican and former unsuccessful candidate for clerk of the court, could be viewed as compatible with this group.

  YOUNG REPUBLICAN CLUB: (7)

Ted Patterson, president of the YR; Chris Zeauskas, vice president of YR; Mike Dawson, political director of YR; Michael Dunn, co-founder of YR and longtime legislative aide to Del. Smigiel; Carrie L. Taylor, YR activist who took over as president of the county’s Republican Women’s Club a few months ago; Joseph M. Tropp, vice-chairman of ROC (“Republicans of Cecil County”), a “new” group that lives on the YR website with overlapping officers; and County Commissioner Jim Mullin (R-1st) who says YR volunteers helped him win his 2008 election. (A lot of money from fellow Republican Commissioner Rebecca Demmler didn’t hurt either.)

     Patterson, Zeauskas, Dawkins, Dunn and Taylor are all running for other elected posts in addition to their candidacy for the GOP committee. Patterson is running for a state delegate seat while Taylor has filed for county Treasurer. The other three are running for county commissioner seats.

    TEA PARTY: (5)

     Donna Caudell, a founder of the “Cecil County Patriots” that is the local arm of the “Tea Party” movement; her sister, Jackie Gregory; Harry Hite III; Tom Kenny; and Peter Oliphant, who has also been active in the Jim Rutledge GOP campaign for Senate.

   Then there are some who don’t fit neatly into one category. Ted Kolodzey started out as a Young Republican but drifted away from that group and has also been active with the Tea Party, but is increasingly focused on his own campaign for the Republican nomination for county Commissioner in District 3.

     Devon Perry, a 19 year old student at Towson University, is a graduate of Elkton Christian academy where he played football, according to his MySpace page, which doesn’t mention any political leanings.  Anneliese Johnson of Rising Sun is also an unknown factor. [UPDATE: In an interview with Cecil Times, Johnson identified herself as a 30-year old mother of three young children, an honors graduate of Towson University and studying for a master’s degree in social science at Towson. She decided to run because she is “interested in public policy” issues, although “I’m not so comfortable with the politician aspects” and campaigning for a political post.]

     The YR gang will no doubt be running as a “slate.”  The incumbent group has made no decisions on whether to run as a ‘slate,’ sources said. But each camp would have to pick up two of the ‘wild cards’ to round out their ticket. Kolodzey seems to be a potential choice for the incumbent camp. And the YR’ers would likely try to pull from the Tea Party camp.

    Who thought a simple party committee election could have such drama?