The Democratic primary for the 4th District county Commissioner’s seat is shaping up as one of the more expensive local campaigns of the year, with challenger Carl Roberts spending more than twice the campaign money of his opponent, incumbent Wayne Tome.
Roberts, the former superintendent of Cecil County schools, is trying to unseat Tome, who won the 4th District slot four years ago. Tome is a batallion chief with the Baltimore County fire department, a longtime volunteer firefighter and paramedic with local fire companies, and the former mayor of Port Deposit.
Tome raised a total of $14,322 for his campaign and has spent $10,831, according to campaign finance reports filed through Sept. 3. His net cash on hand was $3,491. He had no loans to his campaign and financed his campaign out of current donations and fundraising events.
During the same period, Roberts raised $33,068, including $15,000 in personal loans to his campaign. He has spent $28,458, according to reports filed with the State Board of Elections. His remaining bank balance was $4,611.
Roberts’ campaign spent a total of $15,000, in three installments paid in April, May and June, to Dyekman Design of Chesapeake City for design of his website and campaign materials as well as “social media” services. The firm is operated by Jim Dyekman and his wife, Linda, who is the chairman of Roberts’ campaign committee. (Printing costs were paid separately to other businesses and Roberts has sent out three flyers to Democrats in the county.) The Roberts website is here: www.electcarlroberts.com
Such a figure is unheard of for local candidates, most of whom have volunteers create their websites and Facebook pages or paid more modest fees to professionals. One of the most politically effective websites in this year’s campaign season has been that of Chris Sutton, a candidate in the Democratic primary for sheriff, who paid a total of $2,025 to an Elkton firm for website design, technical set up and webhosting services, according to finance reports filed with the state Board of Elections.
In an interview with Cecil Times, Roberts said that he loaned the money to his campaign to cover the website and related costs because he felt getting his message out, as a “rookie” in politics, was important and that Jim Dykeman did most of the work, not his campaign chairwoman.
While Roberts may be a “rookie” at running for office, he is no stranger to local politics from his many years of dealing with the County Commissioners as the schools Superintendent. “I’m not a politician, but I am political,” he said. Roberts said he “hates” to ask people for donations to a political campaign, especially in this tough economy. “I think that’s the hardest thing to do when you are running for office,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tome has been active on Facebook and also has a website, www.waynetome.com . In an interview with Cecil Times, Tome said volunteers created his website without charge. He also has not spent campaign funds on big ticket items like billboards. He is sending out some targeted flyers to registered Democrats.
Roberts paid $4,046 to Apple Outdoor Advertising for design and rental of billboards. He has several billboards in highly visible areas, especially along Route 40.
Donations to both candidates show some large contributions from prominent entities doing business in the county.
Tome received $1,000 from North Bay Charters and Seafood, of North East; $1,000 from Clark Turner, whose companies have been involved in the Bainbridge redevelopment project as well as the “Extreme Makeover” TV show that rebuilt a theraputic riding center; and $1,000 from the Firefighters Political Action Committee in Cockeysville.
Contributions linked to County Commissioner Brian Lockhart (D-3rd) were Tomes’ largest source of funds: $2,492. Lockhart transferred $892 from his 2006 campaign account while Monterey Refuse Service, which is owned by Lockhart, donated another $1,000 to Tome. And Cecil Bank, where Lockhart sits on the Board of Directors, provided another $400 plus $200 in fundraiser ticket purchases.
Tome said that other executives at the bank pushed for ticket sales and that Lockhart closed out his old campaign committee when he thought he would not run again for commissioner. (Lockhart subsequently changed his mind and has created a new campaign committee for his re-election race this year.)
Roberts joined the golf bandwagon that has been the ticket to major fundraising money for other candidates in the county. His early September golf event has already brought in a substantial amount for his campaign, with the largest figure– $1,500– coming from NBRS bank for sponsorship of the event’s breakfast. Roberts also received a donation of $1,000 from Robert “Chick” Hamm, the former President of Mercantile/County Bank who is now an executive with PNC Bank.
Roberts had numerous smaller donations from residents of Harford County, where he worked in the school system before coming to the Cecil County schools. Roberts has also attracted a number of small donations from Republicans, as well as Democrats.
Both Tome and Roberts each received $1,000 donations from what was listed as “Perryville Medical Center” with a York, Pa. address. The address is actually that of Stewart and Tate, a heavy construction firm that is also involved in building medical facilities and is part of the Stewart enterprises that are among the largest landowners in Cecil County, with various business parks and gravel mining operations in their portfolio.
During the campaign, and at a face-to-face matchup at a forum in North East, each candidate has highlighted his experience in public service in the county and addressed the pressing budget issues facing the local government. Roberts has painted a dire portrait of the county’s current status and future while Tome has said the county is doing a good job of living within its means and not raising property taxes for recession-strapped homeowners this year.
“I think people need to hear the truth,” Roberts told Cecil Times. He said his message– that the county must develop a “strategic plan” to cope with the impact of the recession– is being “well received” by voters. And, despite being a veteran educator, he said he has received an “education” from voters in one-on-one conversations about the issues.
Tome said Roberts was trying to appeal to volunteer fire companies– Tome’s strongest base of political support– with a letter to fire chiefs pledging support for the companies and their equipment needs. Tome cited his own track record of ensuring that public safety needs in the county are met. “I’m not just making a lot of campaign promises,” Tome said.
The Democratic primary in District 4 is one of the most competitive local races on the Sept. 14 ballot. Neither candidate predicted victory, and each said they were not assuming anything or even looking ahead to the general election.
The winner of the Democratic primary will face the winner of the Republican primary, which pits Diana Broomell against Michael A. Dawson. Broomell lost the 2006 election to Tome. Dawson is a newcomer to Cecil County and is affiliated with the “Young Republicans” faction that is fielding candidates in all Commissioner races this year. Dawson is also a candidate for the GOP Central Committee.
Broomell has filed an affadavit with the state Board of Elections stating that she has not raised or spent over $1,000 on her campaign.
Dawson has raised $4,725, including $2,500 from Jill Cappol of Wilmington, DE and $450 from the “Republicans of Cecil” club affilated with the Young Republicans. Dawson has spent $4,314, including $435 paid for his website design to Josue Sierra, another leader of the Young Republicans club.