CECIL TIMES HAS MOVED! VISIT WWW.CECILTIMES.COM

October 6, 2010

Dear Cecil Times Readers,

  Today The Cecil Times is moving from a blog on the WordPress platform to a dedicated website:  www.ceciltimes.com

  Some of you had found our site while it was under construction but the site is now up and running and henceforth all new content will be posted only at the website. For the next few days, we will still be checking back on the blog and shifting over any comments our readers post here. But in the future, all comments should be posted on articles on the website. The format is pretty much the same for posting comments there as it was here, with a new sidebar box highlighting recent reader comments.

   We are transitioning our previous email subscribers to the new platform but if your subscription gets lost in the shuffle, you can sign up on the new website directly. There are new options for subscribing there, too.  However, going forward the full text of news articles will not be included on emails. You will receive a summary with a link to read the complete article on the website.

  Moving an archive as large as ours from the blog to a website took more effort and patience than we had expected, and we are grateful to our web guru, Ken Chamberlain. Any glitches that we uncover as we still kick the tires on our new vehicle will likely be a matter of operator-error, not the designer.

  So join us at our new home:  www.ceciltimes.com

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State Candidates’ Forum: ‘Who’s on First’ and Other Routines

September 29, 2010

  Like the old Abbott and Costello comedy routine (” Who’s on First?”) or the vintage comic strip of Alphonse and Gaston (“After you,sir”  and “No, After You”), the candidates forum for Cecil County’s District 36 Senate and House of Delegates seats Tuesday night was an entertaining sideshow in an otherwise routine  evening of multiple candidates’ recitation of their resumes and “vote for me” appeals.

  The forum, hosted by the Cecil County Chamber of Commerce at Cecil College, let candidates have four minutes to speak to an audience of about 200 people, without any questions from a panel or moderator, and it was not set up for back and forth debate among candidates. The groundrules scheduled incumbents to speak first, followed by their election opponents. That was fine with all the other candidates for state-level office –but not Cecil County’s District 36 leadership.

   When incumbent Republican Sen. E.J. Pipkin’s name was called, he was not present in the auditorium. (In fact, he was seen waving from his truck, about a half-mile down the road from the college shortly before the forum began at 6:30 p.m.)  So his Democratic rival Steve Mumford, of Kent County, went first. Pipkin then arrived in the hall at about 7:05 p.m., after the forum had moved on to other contests.  Pipkin was seen getting a briefing from one of  his GOP colleagues, and when he finally got up to speak indicated he knew exactly what Mumford had said.

    Then in the District 36 Delegate contest, incumbent Republican Michael Smigiel angrily demanded that he should not have to go first in the lineup. His opponent, Democrat William Manlove, had informed Chamber officials that he could not attend because his wife, Mary, was undergoing major surgery on Tuesday and he needed to be with her. Manlove had asked that a brief statement from him be read at the event.

    Smigiel protested that no statement should be allowed and that at the least he should be permitted to speak after any statement from his opponent was  read because he thought it would be “antagonistic” to him. (He also attacked the editor of the Cecil Times as “an antagonist of mine.”)  The crowd began to boo him, and the Chamber moderator suggested that the audience decide the batting order. The boos intensified and Smigiel then relented and went to bat first.

    “Yes, I have a reputation,” Smigiel began angrily.  “I don’t only vote right, I fight.” He went on to list his many lawsuits against the state, the Governor, the Comptroller and others. One of his lawsuits challenged the referendum that allowed slots, including the Hollywood casino that opened this week in Cecil County to much media attention on the over 300 local jobs it has created.

   “Slots are OK,” he said, “but they don’t belong in our Constitution.”  He went on to list his endorsements, including business groups, Maryland Right to Life and the National Rifle Association and the local FOP Lodge. He said his top priorities were to “fight to keep the taxes down, cut spending and create private sector jobs.”

   And the Manlove statement that so worried Smigiel? It consisted largely of a long recitation of his resume, including four terms as a County Commissioner and membership on numerous regional agency boards.  There were also the controversial statements that he has a dog, Max, obtained from an animal rescue group and he is proud that his grandson will become the sixth generation of his family to operate the family farm.  Manlove also disclosed that “our prayers were answered and the doctors tell us that [Mary] will make a full recovery” from her surgery.

    The audience politely applauded the statement and Smigiel, with his head bowed, joined in.

   In the Senate contest, Mumford stepped up to the plate and swung hard, saying District 36  “deserves better leadership” in Annapolis and a delegation that will “listen to our leaders back home and not hold our leaders hostage.”  He directly challenged Pipkin on a volunteer firefighters’ retirement bill, which he said his opponent tried to block, and a fight with Cecil County leaders on a special taxing district bill that was passed by the General Assembly despite Pipkin’s determined efforts to block it.

   Mumford said he would be more resonsive to constituents, with a “visitor’s chair” always available for constituents to meet with him, and would not simply “wave” at people driving by on the road. “I’m a  local boy and I’ll be there” for citizens and local government leaders, he said.

   Pipkin said he learned that he had “missed a great ripping” from Mumford during his absence from the auditorium. He defended his practice of sign-waving on roadsides, saying that in rural areas the side of the road “becomes like an office” and constituents stop to talk to him and express their concerns. He summed up his platform as “jobs, lower government spending, lower taxes.”

    The incumbent said he had already helped bring jobs to the District with the opening of an emergency medical facility in Queen Anne’s County and worked to expand health education programs at Chesapeake community college to train future healthcare workers.

  In other contests, incumbent Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R), who represents western Cecil and part of Harford county, touted her record as a fiscal conservative, saying “I have voed against all of [Gov.] O’Malley’s tax hikes” and said she had put in the first bill seeking to repeal a one percentage point increase in the state sales tax that was enacted under O’Malley. She said the state had fallen from 24th to 45th place on national lists of business-friendly states under the O’Malley administration.

   Her Democratic opponent, Art Helton, who served in the state Senate many years ago, emphasized his campaigning in the Cecil County portion of the district.  (Both Helton and Jacobs live in Harford County.) He pledged to help Cecil County get state aid to build needed infrastructure in the I-94/Rt. 40 growth corridor. Helton also said he would be more inclusive than his opponent and would “not just represent a narrow viewpont” on issues.

  In the other contested Delegate’s race in Dist. 36, for the Kent County seat formerly held by the retiring Mary Roe Walkup, Republican Jay Jacobs presented a down-home self- portrait: “I’m a blue collar public servant,” he said. “I’m not there for the pictures, I’m down in the ditch.” Jacobs is the mayor of Rock Hall and operates a kitchen contracting business.

    His Democratic opponent, Arthur Hock, whose family has run the antiques and furniture auction facility in Crumpton for many years, said he would be “a voice of conservative independence” and would be “a voice in Annapolis that will be heard and respected.”  He pledged to be a “bridge builder” between local governments and the state.

   Incumbent Democrat David Rudolph (Dist. 34B) cited his efforts on behalf of all residents of Cecil County, not just those who live in his district. He said the state delegation should work together “as a team and make sure we get our fair share” of state aid for the county. His Republican rival, Theodore Patterson, did not show up for the forum.

   Michael Dawson (not the same person who lost a GOP primary bid for county commissioner) said he was running as a Constitution Party candidate against Rudolph as an “everyman” candidate who would “give my heart, give my soul” to represent the interests of his constituents.


Chamber Forum: Commissioner Candidates Speak, Show Pictures

September 29, 2010

   The Cecil County Chamber of Commerce hosted a softball candidates’  forum Tuesday night,  with candidates for County Commissioner getting a chance to pitch their biographies and platforms without questions on issues. If pictures are worth a thousand words (or the four minutes of talk alloted to each speaker), then incumbent Commissioner Brian Lockhart (D-3) took the cake with his slide-show of ribbon cuttings for new or expanded businesses opened in the county on his watch.

  Lockhart, the current President of the county board, highlighted his participation in ribbon-cutting ceremonies for multiple businesses opened in the county since he won his seat in the 2006 election.  What he didn’t say was that some of the businesses had been courted by the county long before he took office.  However, he particularly mentioned the Monday “soft opening,” as the owners call it, of the new Hollywood Casino in Perryville, the state’s first slots facility.  That project, the result of a state-wide referendum on slots two years ago, did receive substantial support from the county on expedited permits and inspections that led to the early opening of a facility that has already created over 300 jobs.  The facility’s Penn National operators  have said that most of the jobs have gone to Cecil and Harford county residents.

   Lockhart. who owns two trash removal companies and is a board member of Cecil Bank,  said he went to the Monday “soft” opening of the slots facility and was pleased to meet so many Cecil County residents who have found jobs close to home. “It came at a great time,” he said of the revenues that the slots facility will bring to the county. He cited his experience as a small business owner to illustrate his commitment to support existing business in the county. “It makes me mad,” he said, when people only talk about incentives for new businesses. “We need to help the businesses already here,” he said, adding that he endorses a “buy local” agenda.

   His opponent, Michael Dunn (R) said the county “needs fresh ideas on the Board of Commissioners” and cited his “experience” working for Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36) as a legislative aide. He said he had worked with his family in the hospitality industry. Dunn said his agenda was “lower taxes, less government spending” and “jobs” in the county. He said he had been active with community and Republican groups for over ten years and noted he had served a term on the county’s Republican Central Committee.

  “We need to adopt a new path,” Dunn said. He said the county must “eliminate waste” in spending and “lower taxes.”

   In the 4th District Commissioners race, Democrat Carl Roberts, who defeated incumbent Commissioner Wayne Tome in the recent Democratic primary, highlighted his “executive experience” as the former county Superintendent of Schools and cited his resume for bringing “effective leadership” to county government. Roberts emphasized his campaign theme that the county is too reliant on  residential property taxes–constituting 61 percent of the revenues used to support county government costs– and  he urged business expansion to “re-balance” the revenue funding mechanisms of  county government.

    Roberts mentioned the concerns of county voters he has met, using their first names, and how he would address their issues. Among them are concerns by farmers that they have been ignored since there are now no farmers on the county board. “Agriculture is the single biggest business” in the county, he said, and farmland constitutes the largest land use.  He pledged to listen to and address the concerns of the farm community.

   His Republican rival, Diana Broomell, cited her “grassroots background” as a GOP activist and land preservation advocate. “I’m a hard worker,” she said, citing her involvement with the 21st Century Republican Club and efforts to bring about an elected county school board.

   Broomell obliquely criticized Roberts, saying that a former Schools Superintendent testified in Annapolis for a ‘special taxing district’  bill that did not provide for “school funding provisions.”  ( At the time that legislation was pending in Annapolis, Broomell was employed as a legislative aide  to Del. Smigiel, who strongly opposed the legislation, which was nevertheless enacted by the General Assembly.) That legislative authority, which has yet to be used by Cecil County Commissioners, allows assessments of fees against developers whose projects would cost the county for additional services required by their projects.

   In the 2nd District Commissioners’ race, Democrat Earl  Piner, Sr., a longtime Elkton town commissioner and former school board member,  said his most important qualification for the Commissioner seat was his personal “integrity” and his dedication to listening to the community.  He cited his many family members, all graduates of county schools, as proof that he would listen to parents and educators to ensure the schools have the support they need.

  Piner said he would bring the concerns of local residents to the Commissioners’  Board: “I want your input so I can bring it to the table,” he said.

  His GOP opponent, Tari Moore, said she and Piner had agreed to wage a positive campaign.  But most of her presentation sounded like past Carl Roberts candidate appearances that focused on the need for a “strategic plan” for the county. (During the Tuesday forum, Roberts only briefly mentioned needs  for a  ‘strategic plan.’)  Moore cited her experience as former executive director for the county’s Chamber of Commerce and said she knew how to help bring business to the county. She said her top priority was to bring “infrastructure” to the county’s growth corridor between I95 and Route 40.

  [Cecil Times will file a separate report on the Chamber of Commerce candidates’ forum for state candidates for Delegate and state Senate.]


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.


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.


Cecil County Goes to the Polls

September 13, 2010

  In a previous life, we wrote or edited many of the “Maryland Goes to the Polls” front page articles in The Baltimore Sun on every election day. It was a guide to basic voting information, names and political affiliations of candidates,  and otherwise a chance for readers to take a deep breath and think about their  choices without a lot of last minute back and forth charges and counter-charges among candidates. That might seem like a quaint custom from the days before the Internet, Facebook, Twitter and instant news, and to some extent it is. Quaint, but valid.

  At this late stage, with voters heading to the polls in a few hours, it is time for individuals to make their own choices– without the Cecil Times reporting every second of every comment that has been swirling through cyberspace for the past 24 hours. And there have been a lot of things written or posted by people who may take two aspirin and regret it in the morning.

  We will, however, bring our readers up to date on two significant issues, with links to places where you can read more information and make your own judgments.

  –Former Gov. Robert Ehrlich appeared at a weekend fundraiser for incumbent Delegate Richard Sossi (R-36) to firmly reiterate his support for Sossi’s re-election. Sossi has been the victim of last-minute negative mailers and robo-calls, attributed to his primary opponent, Steve Hershey, and Sen. E.J. Pipkin. Cecil Times filed an updated report on the Sossi-Hershey race here:  https://ceciltimes.wordpress.com/2010/09/06/dist-36-sossi-melts-hershey-on-campaign-gop-primary-endorsement-tiff/ 

 Del. Sossi has posted about the matter on his Facebook pages here:    http://www.facebook.com/richard.sossi

–The hotly contested Democratic primary for Cecil County Sheriff has had a last-minute back and forth over responses to a questionnaire to candidates from the Cecil County Patriots group. In his responses, Chris Sutton discussed the costs of having deputies assigned to the public schools. There is much debate raging in cyberspace over whether the comments meant he would pull the deputies out of schools and put them on patrols or whether he meant the school board should come up with some funds to help pay for the costs. You can decide for yourself.

   The link to Sutton’s answers to the questionnaire is here:   http://api.ning.com/files/ooPRsqiJrtdgCSB8CWB6yD5Bk52un0owZfrZcWGrp1ldj79AsLgJ6T4MZBWI7diuE-HGQ-Oz6s7d5Y4qlL-68cSYgQsWNRyr/Patriot27s20question20responses1.pdf

 There is a raging debate on the matter on the unmoderated Topix bulletin board here:   http://www.topix.net/forum/county/cecil-md/TPAOITFFUE5J9IIV8

(For those readers unfamiliar with Topix, it is rough and tumble and people can post under any assumed name they choose. It is not for the faint of heart.)

  For voters looking for some last-minute information on the many candidates on Tuesday’s ballot, the Cecil County Patriots have compiled a non-partisan voter guide that includes videos of their two forums for County Commissioner candidates (one for Democrats and one for Republicans.) It adds up to four hours of videos that might be a bit much to take in all at one sitting, but here is the link to the Patriots’ candidate information page:  http://cecilcountypatriots.ning.com/page/candidate-info

  The Cecil Times also covered both Commissioners’ forums and our reports can be read here, for the Republicans:  https://ceciltimes.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/candidates-forum-civility-and-cliffs-notes-for-cecil-county-issues/  and here, for the Democrats:  https://ceciltimes.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/cecil-commissioners-forum-democrats-sing-from-different-songbooks/

   For the 36th District House of Delegates and state Senate races, Cecil Times covered the League of Women Voters candidates forum in Centreville and filed this report: 

https://ceciltimes.wordpress.com/2010/08/19/36th-district-candidates-forum-lots-of-me-too-and-a-surprise/

    You can also click on the Politics 2010 tab at the top of the Cecil Times homepage and find links to all our political coverage of the season, including our exclusive campaign finance reporting.

    We thank our many readers who have expressed their support for the original reporting Cecil TImes does on politics and local news issues, and which you won’t find elsewhere, either in newspapers or in the regular blogosphere.  We will be back Tuesday night with our election night reports.

   Until then, we will just say: exercise your right to VOTE, regardless of the candidates you choose. Remember, there are brave men and women serving our country overseas who will be voting by absentee ballots. Honor them by going to your local polling place on Tuesday.


UPDATE: Sheriff’s Campaign Finances

September 9, 2010

    Cecil Times has published multiple reports on the campaign finances of the crowded field of candidates running in the Democratic and Republican primaries for Cecil County Sheriff. Here is a brief update on where the candidates’ finances stand as of the most recent reports to the state Board of Elections, filed Sept. 3.

Democratic Primary Candidates:

CHRIS SUTTON:

 He raised an additional $14,688 since his last campaign finance report. After expenses of $8,978, plus a carry-over balance of about $24, he ended up with $5,684 cash in the bank.  Most of his funds came from another golf fundraising event.

 But he also had several large donations, the largest of which was $1,250 from Sentman Distributors in Elkton. He also had several donations from businesses in the southern part of the county, including $500 from TD Enterprises in Earleville, $400 from First Choice Concrete in Earleville, and a $300 donation from the Chesapeake Inn in Chesapeake City.

Republicans contributing  $440 each for entry fees for the golf event included Chris Zeauskas, whose campaign in the GOP primary for 2nd District county commissioner previously received donations from Democrat Sutton;  Michael Halter, a GOP primary candidate for State’s Attorney; and Will Davis, who ran as a Republican candidate for State’s Attorney four years ago. Halter and Davis also participated in an earlier golf fundraiser.

ROBERT “SKIP” DeWITT:

   He raised an additional $1,200, and had expenses of $1,537.  His largest expense was $1,095 for a full page ad in the Cecil Whig. 

   Adding in his $2,231 carryover bank balance from his last report, he ended up with $1,894 cash in the bank.

   DeWitt’s fundraising came from individual and business donors, with no new fundraising events. White Horse Apartments in Perryville contributed $400 while Wright’s Auto in Elkton gave $300.

WILLIAM GERCZAK

  The last-minute entrant into the Democratic primary had been all but invisible on the campaign trail but surfaced with a fundraiser event in Port Deposit. But the $2,056 costs of the event were more than the $1,985 it raised from  ticket purchases.  Gerczak, a former Baltimore City police officer, received a $500  Political Action Committee donation from the Fraternal Order of Police, Baltimore City Lodge 3.

  He had no campaign printing expenses but did receive an in-kind donation of $300 worth of signs and pamphlets from Donald Allen of North East. He has $429  cash on hand in his bank account.

Republican Primary Candidates:

BARRY JANNEY

The pre-primary campaign finance report that was due to be filed Sept. 3 has not yet been filed, according to the state Board of Elections website. The Board has assessed a late fee/fine of $40 as of Thursday, Sept. 9.

DAN SLATER

   Slater continued to pick up the pace of his campaign, with new fundraising and contributions totaling $3,785 since the previous pre-primary report he filed in early August. Most of his funds came from a dinner he hosted at the Hack’s Point fire hall in Earleville. Despite the southern Cecil County location of the event, most of the ticket purchasers were from the northern part of the county, as well as purchasers from Pennsylvania and Harford County. However, direct donations to his campaign in the latest report showed the largest sum, $300, came from an Earleville resident, Pat Smart.

  After expenses of $1,986,  and a carry-over bank balance from his last campaign finance report, Slater had  net proceeds of $1,868 cash in the bank.

AL MICHAEL

   He contributed another $120 to his own campaign, and after spending $307 on a newspaper ad, had just $33 cash in the bank.