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.


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.

 


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.


Republican Committee War: Pipkin-Smigiel Slate Wins Majority Seats

September 15, 2010

   The drama may just be beginning for the Cecil County Republican Central Committee as members of  different factions elected in Tuesday’s primary learn to co-exist– or not.

    The crowded field of candidates –22 people vying for 9 seats– and the war of words on various Internet bulletin boards and comment pages was a never-ending source of  local political entertainment– especially for Democrats– in this election season.

  With all 19 regular precincts reporting, a slate spearheaded by Sen. E.J. Pipkin and Del. Michael Smigiel, both R-36, appeared to have won control of the party committee. However, absentee and provisional ballots could alter the final outcome since some candidates were separated by just a handful of votes.  

   The current chairman of the committee, Joe Carabetta, barely hung on, coming in 9th place in the crowded field. Several other current members of the committee, including Robert Amato and Allen Andrichyn, finished out of the running.

 The campaign featured rival slates and feuds over whether a slate assembled by two state legislators had the right to call itself  ‘tea party tested, tea party approved,’ when some of its members boycotted a non-partisan candidates’ forum hosted by the local tea  party group. The local tea party group, as part of its nonpartisan stance, also declined to endorse any candidates in the election, including some of its own members who were running for seats on the GOP Central Committee.

   While several ‘tea party’ members ran for the GOP committee, only Ted Kolodzey gained a seat, finishing in seventh place with ,1,874 votes.

    The Pipkin-Smigiel slate largely consisted of candidates recruited from the Young Republicans Club that is linked to Pipkin-Smigiel. The YR members of the slate were: Mike Dawson, Michael Dunn, Theodore Patterson, Carrie Taylor and Chris Zeauskas,– all of whom won seats in Tuesday’s balloting. Another member of the slate, Joseph Tropp, an officer of the YR-related “Repbulicans of Cecil (ROC) club, lost.

    In addition, the Pipkin-Smigiel slate recruited two newer members of the current Central Committee– James Hutchinson and Brad Carrillo– to join the slate, as well as Pipkin-Smigiel loyalist James Mullin, the county Commissioner representing the 1st District. Hutchinson and Mullin won seats, but Carillo did not.

  That slate published ads and campaign materials claiming it was “tea party tested, tea party approved” and that set off a firestorm of protest from the local tea party organization, the Cecil County Patriots.

   So a counter-slate of “tea party” activists  challenged the Smigiel-Pipkin slate. The tea party slate included Donna Caudell, Jackie Gregory, Kolodzey, Peter Oliphant, Harry Hite III and F. Gaylord Moody III.  Another tea party activist, Tom Kenny, chose not to join the slate and ran an independent campaign. Only Kolodzey managed to grab a seat on the GOP committee.

     Oher independent candidates were Tina Sharp, who is well known in GOP circles and previously ran for county Court clerk; Devon Perry, a Towson University student; and Anneliese Johnson, a mother of three and a graduate student. All three failed to win a seat.

    The top vote getter was Zeauskas, with 3,083 votes. Carabetta’s 9th place spot was snared with 1,869 votes.


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.


Cecil County Republican Drama: Moving the Money Around and Around

September 7, 2010

  Our ongoing local political soap opera, centered on the crowded field of warring factions seeking seats on the Cecil County Republican Central Committee,  may have many observers wondering what all the fuss is about. But when you drill deeply into state campaign finance reports, it becomes clear that the fuss is about more than ideology, alliances, and political control. It’s also about money and who gets to decide how, and to whom, to dole out Republican campaign funds.

  At stake in the Sept. 14 Republican primary is not just which faction gets control of the party’s official arm in Cecil County, the  nine-seat Central Committee, but who  will control the Committee’s bank account.  In the most recent filings with the State Board of Elections, the county’s GOP Central Committee had $17,715 cash in the bank, which the committee can contribute to local Republican candidates for their campaigns, as well as fund-raise on behalf of GOP candidates.

 While  that might not seem like a lot of money, it becomes more significant in the context of a new and  evolving strategy by one faction– which is tied to Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36) and Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-36)– of moving Republican money around within various new entities, all of which have the same linkages and leaders. And the extent to which money has been moved around, especially in some cases of contested GOP primaries, shows that this is internecine political party warfare not seen in the county in a long time.

  A key aspect of the new strategy is to create or control various political “clubs,” which under state election laws do not have the same financial reporting requirements that an official county Central Committee or a candidate’s campaign has. In general, the clubs do not have to disclose how much money they have, where it came from, or what they do with it.  The only way to find out anything is when their donations to individual candidates or Political Action Committees show up on those candidates’ or PAC’s mandatory campaign finance reports, or when a candidate transfers funds from his/her campaign fund into the political club.

   You need a map to follow the intersecting paths in our drama, although the players in all are virtually identical. There are two key elements: the political clubs and the PACS, and, to a lesser extent, the “slates.”

  The “Young Republicans Club,” the “Republicans of Cecil (ROC)” club, and the Cecil County Republican Women’s Club are center stage in the drama. The YR group and the ROC group share a website, leadership, and fundamental alliance with Del. Smigiel and Sen. Pipkin. The Women’s Club, a venerable institution in the county for many years, was taken over earlier this year by a YR-er, Carrie Taylor. Taylor, the women’s club president, is running in a contested Republican primary for county Treasurer, against William Feehley, and she is also running for GOP Central Committee.

   Other linked entities are the “Republicans of Cecil Fiscal Conservative Team Slate,” which includes Smigiel and Pipkin explicitly and their annointed candidates for GOP Central Committee, plus Jay Jacobs, a Kent Countian who is running for the open delegate seat formerly held by the retiring Mary Roe Walkup. (Jacobs got $200 from  the “Republicans of Cecil”  on Aug.  28, state records show.)The slate includes County Commissioner Jim Mullin (R-1st Dist.),  a longtime Smigiel-Pipkin ally who is running for the GOP Central Committee.

[UPDATE:   Del. Smigiel got the ball rolling when he transferred $500 from his own campaign account to the “Republicans of Cecil” on July 16, according to reports filed with the state. That fund transfer to the club helped prop up the money pot that the club could in turn move around through a PAC and other entities.]

A starring role is being played by the Republicans of Cecil PAC, (ROC PAC) which received $1,500 from the ROC Club on Aug.9 and $1,200 from the Women’s Club on Aug 13– and Lo and Behold, $2,000 from Commissioner Mullin, through his Mullin Appraisal Service business, on Aug. 13.  Mullin has been a major bankroller of some of the YR campaigns, notably Chris Zeauskas, who is running in a contested primary for the GOP nomination for County Commissioner in District 2 as well as the party’s central committee. (See our previous article on the Mullin-Zeauskas financial connection here:     https://ceciltimes.wordpress.com/2010/02/01/cecil-commissioner-race-mullin-bankrolls-zeauskas/     )

  With that cash in hand, the ROC PAC turned around and transferred $450 to Carrie Taylor’s campaign in two installments in August.  Follow the money: Taylor heads the Women’s Club, which gives money from its treasury to the ROC PAC and then ROC PAC turns around and gives money to her individual campaign fund. Perhaps it would have been too obvious if she got the Women’s Club she heads to donate money directly to her campaign. Under party policy, such clubs are not supposed to donate to individual candidates before a contested primary has been decided. And Taylor IS in a contested GOP primary for Treasurer.

   (In the past election cycle, the Women’s Club made its largest donation, $600, directly to the county Central Committee, state records show. The Club also donated $500 each post-primary to two female Republican candidates, Delegate Walkup and Sheryl Davis-Kohl’s delegate race.)

   Under current state campaign finance rules, there is no clear way of knowing who is donating to the Women’s Club– or the ROC Club, or the YR Club– or how much money is in each club’s bank account.  Only if a declared candidate transfers money from his/her own campaign fund would a donation to the  club show up. And spending by the club would only show up by pouring through a lot of individual  candidate’s reports to see where their donations came from. But the Women’s Club’s hefty donations to the ROC PAC showed up on that PAC’s report.

  In case there was any doubt about loyalties, the ROC PAC also  gave $200 to Sen. Pipkin’s campaign fund on Aug. 24.  And ROC PAC is listed as giving $100 to Del. Smigiel on Aug. 28, with “Republicans of Cecil” donating another $100 to Smigiel on June 24, according to state Election Board records.

ROC PAC also gave $500 to Michael Dunn, who works for Smigiel in his legislative office, on Aug. 19. Dunn is in a multi-candidate contested GOP primary for County Commissioner in Dist. 3.  Another YR-er, Mike Dawson, got $450 on Aug.23.

 With the exception of donations to Pipkin and Smigiel, every one of the ROC PAC’s donations went to people who are running for the county GOP Central Committee, as well as some other local or state office. The political cleverness of the strategy of running for central committee along with another office is that one candidate campaign committee can pay for printing yard signs to get your name out there for both positions.

  ROC PAC deposited its largest donation so far– $1,000– into the campaign fund of YR President Ted Patterson, who is running for the House seat now held by Democrat David Rudolph. Patterson also got some direct money from the Women’s Club (thank you, Ms. Taylor) with a $400 contribution from that club’s funds on Aug. 13. Patterson is also running for a seat on the GOP Central Committee. Conveniently, the treasurer of the ROC PAC is Jillian Patterson, his wife.

  Yes, Dear Readers, we know your head is spinning from all these numbers and interlocking relationships. Take a deep breath, print this news article out, and read it again in the morning. It will all become oh so clear.


Dist. 36: Sossi Melts Hershey on Campaign $, GOP Primary Endorsement Tiff

September 6, 2010

  Incumbent Delegate Richard Sossi (R-36) is melting the campaign finances of his Republican primary challenger, Steve Hershey, who features a modified version of the chocolate bar in his campaign signs and ads.  But a last-minute flap over which candidate is endorsed by Robert Ehrlich, the expected Republican candidate for governor, has really heated things up.  

   Since no Democratic candidate has filed for the Queen Anne’s County seat in the 36th, the GOP primary will decide that race. (There are three Delegate seats in District 36 and one resident Delegate each from Queen Anne’s, Kent and Cecil Counties is  elected by voters in those counties, plus half of Caroline County.)

   Sossi also had no opposition in the GOP primary until a last minute challenge was filed by Stephen S. Hershey, Jr., of Queenstown. (See previous Cecil Times report on the contest here:  https://ceciltimes.wordpress.com/2010/07/28/36th-delegate-seat-with-gop-friends-like-this-who-needs-democrats/  )

   Sossi has been ahead in the campaign fundraising race by a better than 3-to-1 margin but in the final days leading up to the Sept. 14 primary, the contest has taken on a war of words twist.

    Hershey recently sent out a four-page flyer, citing his past state employment as a political appointee during the Ehrlich administration in Annapolis. The flyer seemed to suggest that Ehrlich, who is hugely popular among Republicans in his bid for another term as governor against incumbent Democrat Martin O’Malley, was endorsing Hershey for the Delegate’s seat.

 That made Sossi see red. Sossi had received permission from the Ehrlich campaign to post his own campaign signs in tandem with Ehrlich’s around the 36th District and Ehrlich had earlier endorsed incumbent Republicans seeking to retain their seats in the House of Delegates. (Hershey has been pairing his signs with those of Del. Michael Smigiel, R-36, and Sen. E.J. Pipkin, R-36. Hershey was the campaign treasurer for Pipkin’s failed bid for Congress two years ago.)

  So Sossi took to his Facebook page (  http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/richard.sossi?v=wall&ref=mf  ) and he wrote on his “wall” about the “endorsement” flap:  “Tis the election season. Because  a very slick mailer, albeit misleading and specifically not approved, implied endorsement of my primary opponent, the Ehrlich campaign has taken the extraordinary step of approving a press release reaffirming his endorsement of my election.”

   In the press release, supplied by the Sossi campaign, Ehrlich “reaffirmed” his support of Sossi: “Dick Sossi has a track record of fighting for our constituents and I look forward to once again working with Dick to return Maryland to a sound financial footing and to getting our fellow Marylanders back to work.”   The press release also quoted Ehrlich as saying, “”There are some folks that talk the talk, but Dick Sossi walks the walk.” 

  In the latest Sept. 3 campaign finance reports to the State Board of Elections, Hershey does not include costs related to the controversial flyer. In his previous report, Hershey does include  $850 in expenses, paid to a Georgia company, to set up his website, www.hersheyfordelegate.com . However, that site does not comply with Maryland elections law requirements for an “authority” tagline, stating the name of the campaign treasurer. His website has a box, stating “Paid for by Friends of Steve Hershey” but does not include the authority line or treasurer’s name.

   Hershey’s campaign has been largely financed by a $10,000 loan he made to his own campaign, with just $942 in individual contributions, including several from family members. His latest Sept. 3 report listed $2,018 in expenses for printing yard signs and tee shirts but did not cover costs of a flyer mailing by a direct mail operation. Hershey’s report showed $$7,702 cash on hand for the final days of the primary campaign.

   Meanwhile, Sossi still had $36,345 cash on hand, after a year-long fundraising push and spending for campaign ads, printing, signs and mailings.  Most of the contributions to his campaign have been relatively small and based within the district. But in the most recent report, he received a $1,000 donation from the Maryland Realtors Political Action Committee. 

   Sossi’s report showed $1,815 for mailings by a direct mail business, which he said covered two mailings to district residents: one to newly registered Republicans in the district and another to senior citizens.

   Cecil Times has called Hershey for comment and will update this report upon his response.

UPDATE: In the final days before the primary election, Hershey has sent out a slick four-page flyer, with pictures of Sossi purporting to show him nodding off or sleeping in the House chamber and accusing him of “sleeping on the job.”  The Hershey attack flyer asserts “only your vote will wake Sossi up.”  If the pictures were taken on the House floor, the angle is such that they would have had to have been taken by another Delegate or a Delegate’s legislative aide, since average citizens are not allowed on the floor. The flyer does not state a date or time when the pictures were shot, but the House often holds late into the night sessions.

   Reaction to the flyer in the District has been swift and angry. On his Facebook page,    http://www.facebook.com/richard.sossi      Sossi received support from Republicans and citizens who denounced the attack as “dishonest” and “slime.”  Sossi called the attack a “dirty tricks smear campaign” and said constituents had expressed “disgust both with my opponent and his puppet-master.”

   In case there was any doubt, the “sleep” flyer from Hershey was followed up by a separate flyer mailed to District residents by Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-36) declaring Pipkin’s endorsement of Hershey. The Pipkin flyer listed his own re-election campaign as the source of funds to pay for the mailing. (Pipkin is opposed in the Repubican primary by Donald Alcorn.)

   The Hershey “sleep” mailer appears to have been planned well in advance as a last-minute ploy and seems to explain what had been a puzzling buzzword of his campaign: “energetic.” Sossi has long been the most “energetic” Delegate in the 36th, keeping a grueling schedule of attending community events in the sprawling, four-county district. Hershey has claimed he is the more “energetic” candidate on his campaign materials. It now appears it was all stage-setting for his last-minute attack flyer on Sossi.


36th District Candidates’ Forum: Lots of “Me, too” and a Surprise

August 19, 2010

CENTREVILLE– Candidates for the 36th District state House of Delegates and Senate seats squared off Tuesday night in a non-partisan issues forum here, with most Republican candidates saying the same things, in the same words, while Democrats had a mixed presentation that even elicited that rare commodity at a candidates’ forum: laughter.

  The forum, sponsored jointly by the Kent and Queen Anne’s counties chapters of the non-partisan League of Women Voters, drew a small crowd of about 45 people. The format of the event placed Democrats  and Republicans in separate panels so there was no back-and-forth between potential general election rivals. In the few contested primary races, rivals were allowed to respond to each others answers. But the format, which drew all questions from people in the audience who could direct which candidate should address it, left out some candidates who were not allowed to address a question if it was not aimed at them. At times, candidates not allowed to answer a question seemed to be chafing at the bit to respond, too.

  That problem was most evident in the Democratic panel discussion.  William Manlove, of Cecil County, who is unopposed in the primary and will face incumbent Republican Del. Michael Smigiel in November, was frequently excluded from answering questions posed to the two Democrats running in the party primary for the chance to challenge incumbent Republican  Sen. E.J. Pipkin in the general election. Robert Alt, the former mayor of Elkton, is running against Steven Mumford, a political newcomer from Chestertown, in the primary for Senate.

(Missing from the panel was Arthur Hock, a Democrat who is running for the Kent County seat formerly held by Mary Roe Walkup, who is retiring.)

  Mumford, who has an eclectic background as a professional dancer and operates a historic homes tour business, drew laughter several times for his comments and demonstrated a mostly solid understanding of Kent and Queen Anne’s county issues. (He didn’t address specific issues regarding Cecil County, which he visited recently to appear at a firemen’s parade, waving a colonial tri-cornered hat.)  Perhaps because expectations were low, his performance at the forum was a surprise.

  On the state budget crisis, Mumford quipped, “Maybe Sen. Pipkin can help us out– he’s a multi-millionaire”  and on whether an additional Bay Bridge crossing is needed to ease traffic congestion, he joked that as a swimming instructor he would provide lessons to anyone willing to make the crossing by water, before discussing the issues seriously.

   Mumford was knowledgable on a key local issue: the “FASTC” project that would have brought a federal State Department security training center to a large Queen Anne’s County farm. The project was initially welcomed by local officials but they backpedaled after pressure brought by local anti-growth groups and the federal government withdrew the proposal.   Mumford said that while the 400 or so jobs the facility would have brought to Queen Anne’s were “lost” to that county, the project might still be salvaged and located in Kent or Caroline counties in the 36th District. He said he had talked with local economic development officials who were working with some local farmers interested in offering their property for the facility. “It’s not a dead issue yet,” he said.

  Alt, his primary opponent, admitted he was not up to speed on the issue and said, “I don’t know much about this issue but I’ll try to learn more.” (In comments posted on our short Tuesday night bulletin on the forum, Alt said he has researched the issue further and said it was a tough issue to address at the state level and was best decided by the county government.)

  Manlove said he had “mixed emotions” about weighing the “property rights” of the farmer to sell his land and the jobs the project would create against his concerns that a large farm would be taken out of production, when he has fought for years to preserve agriculture.

  Several questions posed to the Democrats focused on environmental issues, with Manlove outlining his efforts while President of the Cecil County Commissioners to promote “smart growth” policies to limit development in rural areas, keep farms in business and improve water quality through modernization of sewage systems. At one point, the former dairy farmer took exception to a suggestion that farmers were at fault for water pollution: “I resent blaming farmers for all the runoff,” Manlove said, listing other causes such as pavement run-off and failing sewage and septic systems.

  Alt cited his experience working to upgrade municipal wastewater treatment systems. He said a key issue for the state to address is the growing problem of  “saltwater infiltration into drinking water wells” in rural areas on the Shore.

  Alt also offered a suggestion for easing the chronic traffic congestion on Kent Island and Route 50: eliminate the eastbound tolls during peak travel times to end bottlenecks caused by backups at the toll plaza.

   On job creation, Alt said he had “knocked on doors” to bring business to Elkton and would do the same as a state Senator, working with town and county governments in a coordinated effort.  He emphasized his campaign platform to improve communication between local government and the state delegation. (Smigiel and Pipkin have had particularly strained relations with the Cecil County government in recent years.) Mumford, citing his membership in the Screen Actors Guild, said the state should promote the film industry and improve tax breaks to movie companies to shoot films here. Manlove was not allowed to answer the question.

   During the Republican portion of the forum, incumbents Smigiel and Pipkin were joined by incumbent Del. Richard Sossi, who represents Queen Anne’s County. Sossi is being opposed in the Republican primary by Stephen S. Hershey, Jr., who also attended the event. (No Democrats have filed for the Queen Anne’s County seat.) Pipkin is facing a GOP primary challenge from Donald Alcorn, but he did not attend the forum. Also present was Jay Jacobs, the mayor of Rock Hall who is running for the Walkup seat against Democrat Hock.

   The Republicans took pretty much the same position on the issues, often using the same words. On FASTC, most said it was a matter  of “property rights” and something to be decided by county government, with the state delegation having no role to play. But Hershey added that FASTC, and another Wye Mills project opposed by environmentalists, showed “The delegation does need to step in and push these types of projects. ”

    Pipkin offered a spirited defense of his environmental record when a questioner asked about his poor ratings on scorecards of the Maryland League of Conservation voters, which has given him marks of zero to below 40 percent in recent years. He cited his work as a private citizen to stop dumping of dredge spoil material in the Bay off Kent  Island and his work in the recent legislative session to bar dumping of rubble fill. He said he was penalized on the scorecard because he opposed a solar energy bill that “sounds nice” but in fact was “crony capitalism” that would have cost consumers millions.

   The most varied responses came to a broad question: what issue is your top priority to benefit the 36th District.

   Smigiel declared that it was to change the state Constitution. He said he wanted to allow local referendum voting on any local tax increase, and to clarify that local government condemnation of property through eminent domain could only be for public uses, like a school. (Smigiel and Pipkin have been at war this year with the Cecil County Commissioners and tried but failed to pass legislation in Annapolis to mandate what property tax levels the county could set.)

   Jacobs took a more down-to-earth approach: stem the “exodus” of small business from the Shore through lower taxes and incentives to encourage entrepeneurship in the area. Pipkin said his priority was to rein in government spending and cut property taxes and he also urged action to lower utility bills. Hershey declared that the “liberal majority in Annapolis” must be stopped and the corporate income tax should be cut.

    Sossi took a broader approach, saying “We dont have the luxury of picking just one issue” to focus on. He said job creation was crucial, through small business incentives and he said he would support a rollback of the one percentage point increase in the state sales tax enacted under Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration.

    Sossi was the only candidate to address issues pertaining to seniors, who represent a growing proportion of Shore residents. He said “affordable housing” has become a serious problem in the district because seniors can’t afford to keep up their homes. He said he favors a change in state income tax law to allow a tax credit to offset income from pensions,  such as some other states provide.