Incumbent Del. Richard Sossi (R-36) was trailing challenger Steven S. Hershey, Jr. by 221 votes Tuesday night in a bitter Republican primary that featured last-minute negative campaign flyers against Sossi. The flyers, including one depicting a sleeping Sossi and another falsely implying former governor Robert Ehrlich had endorsed Hershey, prompted outrage among voters throughout the district in the days leading up to Tuesday’s primary.
The state elections board and local elections boards in the four counties included in the district reported 5,317 votes for Hershey and 5,096 for Sossi, with all regular votes counted. The margin was 51 percent for Hershey to 49 percent for Sossi.
Hershey’s narrow district-wide lead could be altered by absentee ballots, which will be counted on Thursday, and a second absentee count and provisional ballots will be tallied next week, according to elections board officials.
Low voter turnout throughout the district left Sossi leading only in Kent County–1,006 to 621– and the Caroline County portion of the sprawling district, with 545 votes to Hershey’s 506.
Half of Cecil County is in the 36th District, and Hershey beat Sossi, 1,391 to 1,204 in Cecil. In Sossi’s home base of Queen Anne’s County, Hershey racked up 2,799 votes to Sossi’s 2,341.
No Democrats had filed in the contest for the seat, so the winner of the Republican primary was expected to be assured of victory in November. No Republicans had challenged the popular Sossi until the filing deadline, when Hershey– who served as the campaign treasurer for fellow 36th Dist. Republican Sen. E.J. Pipkin’s failed bid for Congress two years ago– suddenly filed against Sossi.
Hershey’s candidacy, and a flyer put out by Pipkin endorsing Hershey in the final days of the campaign, were widely seen in the district as political payback for Sossi steering an increasingly independent course from Pipkin’s agenda.
The flyer flap in the final week of the campaign (See previous Cecil Times report here: https://ceciltimes.wordpress.com/2010/09/06/dist-36-sossi-melts-hershey-on-campaign-gop-primary-endorsement-tiff/ ) left a bitter taste in the District, where Hershey had posted brown campaign signs made to look like the popular chocolate bar. Sossi received an outpouring of support in messages on his Facebook wall and he said he was flooded with phone calls and emails expressing disgust at the tactics.
But the Pipkin-Smigiel camp organized its followers with military precision, dropping flyers and signs in tandem with all their annointed candidates throughout the district.
Meanwhile, Pipkin easily beat back a challenger in his own GOP primary, winning 72 percent of the vote to 28 percent for his opponent. Pipkin faced a minimally-financed challenge from the largely unknown Donald Alcorn, a security consultant. Although Alcorn waged a spirited campaign on Facebook and was a regular visitor to local events throughout the district, he was not seen as a serious challenger to Pipkin, who first won the seat in 2002.
In uncontested primaries in the 36th, incumbent Republican Smigiel won re-nomination for the Cecil County seat while Democrat William Manlove, the former president of the Cecil County Board of Commissioners, won the Democratic nomination. They will face off in November, when voters in Kent, Queen Anne’s, Cecil and Caroline counties vote to elect three delegates who reside in Cecil, Kent, or Queen Anne’s.
In the race for the Kent County Delegate’s seat from Dist. 36, Democrat Arthur Hock was unopposed in his party primary while Jay Jacobs was unopposed in the Republican primary. They will face off in November for the seat formerly held by Republican Mary Roe Walkup, who announced her retirement this year.