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.]


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.