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.]

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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.


4th Dist. Commissioners Race: Roberts Outspends Tome in Democratic Primary

September 8, 2010

   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.


Kolodzey Blasts Pipkin, Smigiel: “They Will Destroy This County”

August 2, 2010

  A Republican political newcomer lashed out at State Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-36) and Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36) Monday night, telling a candidates’ forum sponsored by the local “tea party” group that the duo was trying to stage a take-over of county politics and government and “They will destroy this county.”

  The sharp outburst by Ted Kolodzey, a candidate for the Republican nomination for county Commissioner in District 3, came near the end of the two-hour forum, which was boycotted by three “Young Republican Club” members who are running for Commissioner seats and are aligned with Pipkin and Smigiel. Forum organizers placed three empty chairs at the candidates’ table  with cards bearing their names: Chris Zeauskas, Michael Dunn and Michael Dawson.

  Kolodzey’s accusations came in response to a question about whether he supported the actions by “members of the state delegation” seeking to force the county commissioners to accept collective bargaining with binding arbitration on behalf of Sheriff’s deputies.

  “They only help themselves and that’s all they care about,” he said of Pipkin and Smigiel. “I saw what they were doing, financially, and I had to leave them,” he said. “They’re only fighting for their own interests,” he said, adding, “It’s a disgrace” and “someone has to stand up to them.”

   In an interview with The Cecil Times after the debate, at the VFW hall in North East, Kolodzey said that the Pipkin-Smigiel camp had told him, “If you support what we support we will finance your campaign.” He said no specific figure was mentioned. “But I left them… I can’t be a puppet,” Kolodzey said. He said the Pipkin-Smigiel camp has created and/or supported several Republican groups with different names but which are all “fronts for their agenda.”

   As The Cecil Times reported earlier in the day here, https://ceciltimes.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/as-the-gop-central-committee-turns-new-drama-unfolds-online/ a “Young Republican”-led slate–dubbed the “Cecil County Republican Fiscal Conservative Central Committee Team” has been created to try to take over the county’s Republican Central Committee in this year’s elections. The Young Republicans Club (YR) is closely aligned with Pipkin-Smigiel and the YR website also hosts a relatively “new” group called “Republicans of Cecil” (ROC) that has overlapping members and leaders with the YR group.

   Kolodzey, of Rising Sun, had initially been aligned with the YR-ers but turned away from the group and has been active in “tea party” activities led by the Cecil County Patriots, which hosted Monday night’s forum for Republican Commissioner candidates. A separate forum for Democratic candidates will be held in a few weeks.

   Donna Caudell, leader of the local Patriots group, said of the YR no-shows at the forum: “I think it’s unfair that they want to represent the people but they don’t want to face the people and answer their questions.”

   Ron Lobos, another leader of the group, said that Dawson and Zeauskas declined their invitation and Dunn, a legislative aide to Del. Smigiel, sent an email a few hours before the event “backing out of the debate.” Lobos congratulated those candidates who did show up for having the “guts” to attend. “If you want to serve the people, you should be strong enough in character to face the people,” he said.

   Kolodzey’s leading opponent in the GOP primary for commissioner, Harry Hepbron, got in a few shots of his own at the state delegation, without mentioning individuals by name, during the forum. “A Commissioner’s job is to represent all the citizens of the county and I don’t think the delegation should have done what they have done.” He added that “I do have a problem when the delegation takes the side of a small group of people” and tries to impose legislation on the Commissioners.  Hepbron served two terms as a county commissioner, until 2006, and is seeking to re-gain his old seat on the board.

   But Pipkin-Smigiel had one defender in the group of candidates: Diana Broomell, former legislative aide to Smigiel and a current candidate for the GOP nomination for Commissioner from District 4. “I don’t  think the state delegation are that big and bad as some people have made them out to be,” she said, adding that she thought the  state delegation functions as “checks and balances” on the county Commissioners.

[The Cecil Times will file a separate report later on other issues raised in the candidates’  forum]


Breaking News: Janusz Files Against Del. Rudolph, Broomell Resurfaces

July 6, 2010

   Democrat Joe Janusz filed Tuesday to challenge veteran incumbent Del. David Rudolph in the Democratic primary for the Dist. 34B seat, embarking on what some political observers from both parties characterize as a political suicide mission.

   Janusz had initially filed for the Third District County Commissioner seat currently held by fellow Democrat Brian Lockhart, who initially planned not to seek re-election. But, as the Cecil Times previously reported, Janusz decided this spring to pull out of the race for family reasons. (He and his wife, Sara, are going through a divorce and the couple has several young children.) Lockhart filed for re-election last week.

   Democratic political circles had been buzzing for a week or more that Richard (Tucker) Mackie, a former delegate himself, was pushing Janusz to run against Rudolph. But few, if any, thought Janusz would actually do it.

   Janusz was seen as a young rising star in the county Democratic party after his impressive, but losing, campaign against Lockhart in the Democratic primary for county commissioner in 2006. Lockhart later appointed Janusz to the county Planning Commission.  Janusz had been carefully planning for a commissioner run for a long time. But with his personal concerns, his political future seemed to be on hold, with a potential revival a few years down the road.

   Now, with his filing to run against the popular and well-financed Del. Rudolph, Janusz’ political future in the county would seem to be in doubt. It’s an odd turn of fate and political fortune to jeopardize a future political career by jumping in at the last minute to such an uphill battle. The winner of the Democratic primary will face Ted Patterson, a leader of the county’s “Young Republican” club and recently graduated student at the University of Delaware.

   Another last minute surprise, and another Phoenix-like rise from the political graveyard, came when Diana Broomell filed Tuesday as a Republican for the 4th District County Commissioner seat now held by Democrat Wayne Tome. Broomell, a former longtime aide to Del. Michael Smigiel, R-36, ran a spirited campaign against Tome in 2006 but lost. She became active in the Tea Party movement last summer but then disappeared from that and other local political activity, after taking a job in Harford County.

   The 4th Dist. Commissioner contest is a crowded field. Tome is already facing a tough Democratic primary challenge from Carl Roberts, the former county Superintendent of Schools.  Broomell will face Mike Dawson, a political newcomer and a former Prince George’s county police officer. Dawson has been considered to be aligned with the GOP faction led by State Sen. E.J. Pipkin, R-36, and Smigiel. Broomell is much better known in the county than Dawson.