1st Dist. Congress: Harris Gets New Air Support from Outside Groups

October 4, 2010

(By Guest Blogger Lou Peck, Contributing Editor, Congress Daily)

   A newly formed committee, with the vaguely worded name of “Concerned Taxpayers of America,” late last week reported that it is putting nearly $47,000 into TV ads opposing the re-election of Maryland 1st District Democrat Frank Kratovil.

 But, thanks to a recent Supreme Court ruling, that’s about all the information the group needs to make public. Unlike traditional candidate and political party committees, groups such as the Concerned Taxpayers of America are not currently required to disclose who their donors are or where their money is coming from.

   A spokeswoman for Republican Andy Harris – the beneficiary of the Concerned Taxpayers of America advertising — said the Harris campaign does not know where and when the anti-Kratovil ads from the Concerned Taxpayers group are scheduled to run. The group’s treasurer, a Washington-based political consultant, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
According to limited information filed with the Federal Election Commission, Concerned Taxpayers of America has spent just under $225,000 since its creation on Sept. 1.  Of that amount, $178,000 has gone to support a Republican challenger in Oregon, with the balance of the moneyallocated for ads targeted against Kratovil.

   The emergence of the Concerned Taxpayers of America effort comes barely a week after a second little known group — the Commission on Hope, Growth and Opportunity – began running its own ad designed to boost Harris. The ad shows a caricature of Kratovil in a dance-line linking arms with President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. That ad, which has aired frequently on Baltimore TV stations, charges Kratovil with doing a “song-and-dance” with regard to his votes on federal spending.

   The Commission on Hope, Growth and Opportunity faces even less in the way of disclosure requirements than the Concerned Taxpayers of America: The commission is a organized under Section 501c(4) of the U.S. tax code, and therefore does not have to report its activities to the FEC. It is therefore virtually impossible to determine how much it is raising and spending, at least until it files its annual report with the Internal Revenue Service.

   Fueling this type of “independent expenditure” advertising is a recent Supreme Court ruling, Citizens United vs. FEC , which greatly loosened the restrictions on what corporations, labor unions and interest groups can do with regard to spending money to support or oppose candidates. Many of these interests have used groups similar to those working against Kratovil to spend political money in an anonymous manner.

    According to an analysis of FEC filings just published by the Washington Post, groups outside the Democratic and Republican parties have so far spent $80 million this year – a five-fold increase from the $16 million spent by similar groups in the last mid-term election in 2006. This year, the lion’s share of that funding is being spent by conservatives  to help elect candidates such as Harris.

     Regulations governing additional disclosure of funding sources by such groups are pending before the FEC, but it remains unclear whether that agency will reach a decision in the four weeks left before this year’s election.

   On Capitol Hill, legislation designed to close some of the disclosure loopholes created by the Citizens United vs. FEC ruling has been pushed by Democratic leaders. But the bill has been opposed by Republicans, who charge the measure would go well beyond disclosure issues and put their party at a disadvantage.

     Harris “supports campaign finance reform that levels the playing field” said spokeswoman Anna Nix, while adding that Harris believes the ability of labor unions to fund campaigns would need to be restricted along with that of corporations and other groups.

    Kratovil bucked his party by opposing the so-called DISCLOSE legislation last summer, declaring: “The goal of this legislation is to provide greater transparency for corporate political spending, but in fact this legislation captures many established, reputable organizations that are funded by individual citizens, not by corporations.”

   Meanwhile, with four weeks until Election Day, both Kratovil and Harris are getting help on the airwaves from more traditional sources – the campaign arms of House Republicans and Democrats.

   The National Republican Congressional Committee this past weekend launched a TV ad criticizing Kratovil for his support of the $700 billion economic stimulus bill in early 2009. The ad is running on broadcast television in Salisbury on the lower Eastern Shore and on cable TV stations in the Baltimore area, at a cost of just over $60,000. That follows nearly $48,000 that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent last week on pro-Kratovil advertising.

    That’s on top of the barrage of ads being underwritten by the Kratovil and Harris campaigns themselves. And look for a lot more before it’s all over: Sources confirm the NRCC has reserved more than $530,000 in air time to boost Harris between now and Nov.2


36th Delegate GOP Primary: Hershey Wins Final Vote Over Sossi by 124 Votes

September 22, 2010

  Local election boards in the four counties of the 36th District completed their final counts of absentee and provisional ballots Wednesday, with the result that Republican newcomer Stephen S. Hershey, Jr. won the GOP nomination for Delegate in District 36 over incumbent Richard Sossi by 124 votes, according to local elections officials contacted by Cecil Times. The unofficial District-wide tally was Hershey 5,449 to Sossi’s 5,325.

     After early voting counts, election night tallies, the first absentee ballot count and Wednesday’s recording of provisional ballots and overseas ballots, the results were as follows:

     CECIL COUNTY:                             Hershey,  1,417   (53.3%)*——  Sossi, 1,241  (46.69%)

     CAROLINE COUNTY:                   Hershey,       518   (47.61%)—–   Sossi,     570  (52.39%)*

     KENT COUNTY:                             Hershey,        641   (37.64%)—–  Sossi,  1,062  (62.36%)*

     Q.A. COUNTY:                                 Hershey,   2,873  (53.95%)*—- Sossi,  2,452   (46.05%)

[* indicates winner in each county]

—————————————————–

   Hershey lost ground from election night as absentee and provisional ballots were counted but he still managed to eke out a victory with a tiny margin, with his winning tallies coming from his home base of Queen Anne’s County and in Cecil County, where he was largely unknown but had the advantage of being aligned with local state GOP politicians Sen. E.J. Pipkin and Del. Michael Smigiel, both R-36.

   Sossi had held the Queen Anne’s County seat (which also represents half of Cecil County, part of Caroline County and all of Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties) since 2002 and was widely respected in the District for his constituent service. In recent days, Sossi has told friends that he would not contest the outcome or demand a recount. But he has also told associates that he would not endorse his primary opponent in the general election nor would he endorse Hershey’s mentors and allies, Pipkin and Smigiel, according to informed sources.

    As the Cecil Times previously reported here,  https://ceciltimes.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/36th-district-state-races-hershey-leads-sossi-in-bitter-fight/  and earlier here, https://ceciltimes.wordpress.com/2010/09/06/dist-36-sossi-melts-hershey-on-campaign-gop-primary-endorsement-tiff/ , in the final days of the primary campaign Hershey ran a well-financed negative campaign against Sossi including multiple direct mailings to Republicans falsely claiming that Hershey had been endorsed by popular Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Ehrlich and depicting Sossi nodding off in a chair. 

  Throughout the district, GOP primary turnout was very low and a well-financed Smigiel-Pipkin “slate” orchestrated an anti-Sossi initiative. In the past year, Sossi has steered an independent course legislatively from Smigiel-Pipkin and the last minute entry of  Hershey– the former campaign treasurer for Pipkin in his failed campaign for Congress two years ago– into the GOP primary was widely seen as political retaliation by the Pipkin-Smigiel slate for Sossi’s independence.

   Meanwhile, as the impact of the Hershey upset has percolated through the district, new information about the winning candidate has surfaced. Hershey, who obtained a well-paid political appointee job in the former Ehrlich administration, (see previous Cecil Times article here:     https://ceciltimes.wordpress.com/2010/07/28/36th-delegate-seat-with-gop-friends-like-this-who-needs-democrats/   )  was sued by one of his former state government agency employers, the Department of Natural Resources, in the Queen Anne’s County court.  A judgment in the amount of $2,810  was entered against him and court filings showed he paid the judgment off.  See court docket here:

——————————–

Circuit Court of Maryland
Lien Information
Case Number: 17L04002675
County: QUEEN ANNE’S COUNTY
 
Judgment Date: 02/09/2004 Index Date: 02/10/2004 Status Date: 02/09/2004
 
Status: SATISFIED Amount: $2,810.00 Book Page: 00009/00689
 
Plaintiff: MARYLAND STATE OF DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
Defendant: HERSHEY, STEPHEN
 
——————————–  

   Hershey has been running on a platform of fiscal responsibility and calling for major cuts in corporate income taxes and declared on his campaign literature that he was more “energetic” than his opponent, Sossi.

 


1st Dist. Congress: Harris Easily Wins Primary, Setting up Rematch vs. Kratovil

September 15, 2010

(By Guest Blogger– Lou Peck, Contributing Editor, CongressDaily)

State Sen. Andy Harris Tuesday handily defeated businessman Rob Fisher in the Republican primary for Maryland’s 1st District seat in Congress, setting up a general election rematch against Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil – who two years ago defeated Harris by less than 3,000 votes out of more than 360,000 cast.

 With all but a handful of precincts reporting, Harris led Fisher by a 2-to-1 margin district-wide. In Cecil County, Harris bested Fisher by 61 percent to 39 percent.

 Fisher, an information technology consultant, poured nearly $500,000 of his own money into the primary race – enough to finance advertising on Baltimore TV stations throughout much of August.

The 1st District encompasses the entire Eastern Shore along with portions of Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties on the Western Shore.

While he appeared to have few, if any, ideological differences with the strongly conservative Harris, Fisher crafted himself as an outsider in a year of strong anti-incumbent feelings among voters – while seeking to characterize Harris, a 12-year veteran of the Maryland Legislature, as a career politician.        

For Harris, who chose to largely ignore Fisher, this year’s primary was a cakewalk compared to two years ago – when he ousted GOP Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, a party moderate who had represented the district since 1990. Gilchrest crossed party lines to endorse Kratovil prior to the 2008 election, and is widely expected to do so again this year – despite an 11th hour endorsement of Fisher in Tuesday’s GOP primary.

Kratovil, a former Queen Anne’s County state’s attorney who was unopposed for renomination Tuesday, is regarded as one of the Democrats’ most vulnerable incumbents nationwide this year. The Republican-leaning 1st District voted for the GOP presidential candidate, John McCain, over President Obama by a nearly 3-2 margin in 2008.

Harris, a physician, was widely thought to have been hurt in 2008 in the Eastern Shore section of the district by his status as a Baltimore County resident. Before announcing for a second run at the seat, he sought to remedy this by working part-time at a hospital in Salisbury on the lower Eastern Shore. He is an anesthesiologist with long-time professional ties to  the Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore. 

Since Kratovil is considered the only one of the eight Maryland House members in danger of losing aseat in Congress this fall, the Kratovil-Harris contest is expected to attract statewide attention – second only to Maryland’s other marquee rematch, between Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley and former GOP Gov. Robert Ehrlich.

As of the end of August, Kratovil had raised over $1.9 million for his re-election bid, with Harris not far behind at $1.65 million, for a total in excess of $3.5 million. With seven weeks to go until Election Day, this puts them on track to equal or exceed the total of $5 million — $3 million by Harris, $2 million by Kratovil – spent two years ago.  And those totals don’t include hundreds of thousands of dollars more for advertising expected to be spent on the race by political party committees and independent groups.


Sheriff’s Race: Janney, Sutton Rematch in November

September 15, 2010

   Incumbent Republican Barry Janney will again face Democrat Chris Sutton in the November general election, after Janney won the Republican primary and Sutton defeated challengers in the Democratic primary Tuesday.

      Sutton soundly defeated challenger Robert “Skip” DeWitt, racking up 3,128 votes to Dewitt’s 1,855. A third candidate, William Gerczak, received 594 votes. Sutton received 56 percent of the vote to DeWitt’s 33 percent, while Gerczak tallied 10 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary.

     On the Republican side, Janney also faced a three-way primary but ended up with 3,322 votes, or 53 percent of the total. Dan Slater, who had waged an increasingly aggressive campaign, came in second place with 2,011 votes or 32 percent of the total.  Al Michael came in third, with 932, or nearly 15 percent of the vote.

    Janney and Sutton ran against each other four years ago. Sutton has been running a virtual campaign almost since he lost that election and he formally declared his candidacy more than a year ago.

   Both men have raised susbstantial campaign warchests  Janney has held a sizeable amount in reserve for the general election while Sutton spent heavily on the primary challenge from DeWitt, a current deputy and the son of the late Jack DeWitt, who was a popular Sheriff of the county for many years.


36th Dist. Senate Surprise: Mumford Beats Alt in Democratic Primary

September 15, 2010

 It was the “Huckleberry Finn” candidate versus the mayor and Huck won in Tuesday’s Democratic primary in the 36th District Senate race. Steve Mumford, an actor and dancer from Kent County and one of the most unusual candidates in Shore politics, defeated former Elkton mayor Robert Alt.

   Mumford has described himself as the “Huckleberry Finn” candidate, wearing a colonial tri-corner hat in an Earleville  parade and visiting the homeless at a shelter in Elkton. But he also displayed solid knowledge of local issues, especially those affecting Kent and Queen Anne’s counties. He exceeded expectations in a candidates debate in Centreville, as the Cecil Times reported here:   https://ceciltimes.wordpress.com/2010/08/19/36th-district-candidates-forum-lots-of-me-too-and-a-surprise/

  Across the district, Mumford won 3,873 votes to Alt’s 3,438, with the margin going to Mumford with 53 percent to Alt’s 47 percent. Absentee and provisional votes will be counted later but Mumford’s lead seems likely to hold.    

  In vote tallies from all precincts in the four-county district, Mumford carried his home base in Kent County with 1,215, to Alt’s 466 votes.  Key to his victory was his strong showing in Queen Anne’s County, where he won 1,531, to 833 votes for Alt.  In the small section of Caroline County included in the district, Mumford won 354 votes to Alt’s 248.

     Alt scored his only victory in his home base of Cecil County, with 1,891 votes to Mumford’s 773.

    Mumford will face  wealthy incumbent Republican E.J. Pipkin in the general election. Mumford ran his primary contest on a shoestring, filing affadavits that he had spent less than $1,000 on his campaign.

    But Mumford, who comes from a well-connected  Kent County political family, has surprised political professionals before and he should provide one of the more entertaining campaigns of the season.


36th District State Races: Hershey Leads Sossi in Bitter Fight

September 15, 2010

    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.


County Commissioners: Roberts Upsets Tome in Democratic Primary

September 14, 2010

    Former Schools Superintendent Carl Roberts apparently upset incumbent County Commissioner Wayne Tome Tuesday in the Democratic primary for the District 4 Commissioner’s seat, after a well-financed campaign that contrasted Roberts’ dire predictions of fiscal and policy crisis against Tome’s contention that the county was on the right course.

   With all 19 precincts and early voting tallies reporting, Roberts had 2,928  votes to Tome’s 2,492. Roberts garnered 54 percent of the vote to Tome’s  nearly 46 percent.

    (County election officials said late Tuesday that all regular ballots had been counted. However, absentee ballots and provisional ballots will be counted Thursday and next week.)

   Tome, a battalion chief with the Baltimore County fire department and former mayor of Port Deposit, has been a strong supporter of local volunteer fire companies and EMS personnel. However, he drew fire from county Sheriff’s deputies– normally an ally of other emergency responders. Tome and other commissioners opposed legislation drafted by Sen. E.J. Pipkin and Del. Michael Smigiel, both R-36,  to impose binding arbitration on negotiations between the county and deputies represented by the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 2.  After a legislative battle in Annapolis, the county commissioners largely prevailed with approval of collective bargaining, which the commissioners always supported, and non-binding arbitration.

   Roberts, who presided over the county schools during a period of population growth and rising test scores for students, nevertheless drew criticism for spiraling costs of running the school system on his watch. During his Commissionercampaign, Roberts blasted the current board of Commissioners, saying they lacked a “strategic plan” to direct county policies, programs and finances for the future.

   The winner of the Democratic primary will face off in November against the winner of the Republican primary. 

    That GOP race, like many other contested Republican races in the county Tuesday, pitted members of a “slate” of candidates fielded by 36th District Del. Michael Smigiel and Sen. E.J. Pipkin, against non-slate candidates. 

   In the 4th District GOP primary, Diana Broomell, who ran against Tome in the general election four years ago but lost, ran a low-key, low budget primary campaign.  Her  better-financed opponent,  Mike Dawson, a former Prince George’s county police officer, was a member of the “Young Republicans Club” and a member of the Smigiel-Pipkin “slate” of local Cecil County candidates.

   But Broomell narrowly pulled off a 51 percent tally, with  2,908  votes, to Dawson’s 48.8  percent, with 2,777 votes.

     District 3

      The Pipkin-Smigiel slate pounded out a surprise victory in District 3, with the upset win by Michael Dunn, a legislative aide to Smigiel. Dunn registered 2,469 votes, or 42 percent.

        Former County Commissioner Harry Hepbron, who lost a re-election bid in 2006 to current Board of Commissioners President Brian Lockhart (D), came in second place in his comback campaign in the Republican primary Tuesday. Hepbron owns the popular Dove Valley Vineyards and Winery in Rising Sun and served two terms on the county Board of Commissioners before his defeat in the last election. ( Lockhart was unopposed in the Democratic primary Tuesday.) Hepbron received 2,084 votes, or 35.5 percent of the tally.

   Coming in third in Tuesday’s GOP primary voting was Ted Kolodzey, a local “tea party” activist, who surprised attendees at a candidate’s forum this summer when he attacked Smigiel and Pipkin for what he said was an attempt to control county politics and government. “They will destroy this county,” said Kolodzey, who said he had rebuffed attempts to recruit him to a Smigiel-Pipkin slate. Kolodzey received 1,314 or 22 percent.

 District 2

   As in so many local contests this year, District 1 became another Smigiel-Pipkin surrogate contest,  pitting their relatively unknown “slate” candidate, Christopher  Zeauskas, against Tari Moore, a former executive director of the county Chamber of Commerce. But Moore– the non-slate candidate–  won the victory.

    Moore pulled in 3,044 votes, or 52.2  percent, while Zeauskas received   2,784votes, or 47.7  percent.

 The winner of the GOP primary will face Earl Piner, Sr., who was unopposed in the Democratic primary. Piner is a former member of the county school board and Eklton town commissioner. He has also coached basketball teams at Cecil College and youth sports teams in the Elkton area.