Robert “Skip” DeWitt has been running a low-key, door-to-door campaign for the Democratic nomination for Cecil County Sheriff and his campaign fund-raising and spending reflects a back-to-basics style. Some donors may be hedging their bets on his prospects in the primary against his much better-financed rival, Chris Sutton.
DeWitt was a late entrant into the Democratic primary campaign, while Sutton has been officially campaigning for more than a year. DeWitt’s recent campaign finance report to the state Board of Elections shows he has raised $7,275 and spent $5,044, leaving him with $2,231 cash on hand. That’s a lot more than Sutton had in the bank– just $24– according to his campaign report, despite the fact that Sutton has raised a total of $66,129 for his campaign.
[The Cecil Times will be posting a separate report on Sutton’s campaign finance filings.]
DeWitt’s spending report reflects the style of his campaign: just printing for yard signs, a dozen campaign shirts for volunteers, and the costs of a modest pit beef fundraiser. He has spent a total of $5,044. No billboards and just one small newspaper ad to promote his fundraiser. In the final few weeks before the Sept. 14 primary, DeWitt could tap into his bank balance for some last-minute signs or ads.
DeWitt has received $4,775 in direct contributions and earned $2,500 from purchases of fundraiser tickets. He received two large donations of $1,000 each from Fay Weaver of Elkton and Larry Dales, of Naples, Fla. Weaver is the president of Weaver’s Liquors on Route 40 and in the past has given small donations to other Democratic candidates. We found no local connection for Dales, just a picture of him visiting a Florida tribal casino as a customer that was published in a Florida newspaper.
[UPDATE: DeWitt told The Cecil Times that Dales was the chief deputy to his father, the late Jack DeWitt, who served for many years as Cecil County sheriff. “He’s an old family friend and we have stayed in touch over the years,” DeWitt said.]
DeWitt’s fundraising includes mostly small donations and ticket purchases from individuals and local businesses.
But we found an interesting both sides donation. DeWitt received $200 from Real Trust Associates, of North East. That real estate firm is owned by Norm Wehner, who is well-known in local Republican and realty circles, and his wife. But Norm Wehner also personally donated a total of $200 to incumbent Republican Sheriff Barry Janney in this election season. Wehner has routinely contributed to local Republican candidates in past elections but state records show no previous donations to Democrats.
UPDATE: DeWitt told Cecil Times that he and Wehner have been friends for about 25 years and that “he believes in me and in my plans for the Sheriff’s Department.” DeWitt added that he expected he would receive “many more donations from Republicans” after the primary.]
For DeWitt, the primary is make-or-break and most political pundits would urge him to pour his remaining campaign funds into the final days of the primary contest, with the expectation that if he were to score an upset in the primary, donors would come out of the woodwork to support him in a general election contest.
But DeWitt has been running his own style of campaigning, following in the footsteps of his late father, who used to take his son on the campaign trail and focused on making a personal connection with voters. DeWitt has been going door-to-door with family members, covering a wide swath of the county with personal contacts. But in a concession to the modern era, Dewitt has established a campaign website, www.dewittforsheriff.com that reflects his modest campaign style and he is also on Facebook.
[UPDATE: DeWitt said that last weekend he knocked on over 500 doors in the county and is averaging 100 or so homes a night. “I’ve already worn through one pair of sneakers,” he said with a laugh.
He said he is deliberately holding back some of his campaign funds for a general election campaign and has already paid for most of his advertising that will be printed through the primary. “The day after I win the primary, I’m going to be ready to go forward,” he said. “I’m looking for victory in November.”]