GOP Central Committee Drama: So Many Candidates, So Few Seats

July 7, 2010

   Election 2010 in Cecil County is shaping up to have much of the drama, and a lot of the silliness, of a soap opera or one of those cheesy reality shows that you snicker at but continue to watch anyway. After all, we don’t have any movie theaters in Cecil County, no local TV and even the “local” radio station is really located in Harford County. So local politics provides some of our most interesting entertainment.

   The Republican Central Committee drama that unfolded on Tuesday as the filing deadline approached is a case in point. As the day began, only a few candidates had filed. Then suddently a steady trickle became a torrent of candidates for the nine available seats. By the end of the day, 22 candidates had filed.

   The candidates generally fall into three categories: incumbents and ‘mainstream’ Republicans, the Young Republicans Club aligned with Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-36) and Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36), and “Tea Party” advocates. Some candidates fall into more than one category, but in general here is the lineup:

   INCUMBENTS: (6 + 1)

      Joe Carabetta, current chairman of the GOP Central Committee and a longtime Republican activist in the county; Robert Amato, current vice chairman of the committee;  James W. Hutchinson, current secretary of the committee; Allen Andrichyn, member; Brad L. Carrillo, Jr., member; and F. Gaylord Moody III, member. (Moody has also filed to run for the GOP nomination for Register of Wills.)

    Tina Sharp, a longtime county Republican and former unsuccessful candidate for clerk of the court, could be viewed as compatible with this group.

  YOUNG REPUBLICAN CLUB: (7)

Ted Patterson, president of the YR; Chris Zeauskas, vice president of YR; Mike Dawson, political director of YR; Michael Dunn, co-founder of YR and longtime legislative aide to Del. Smigiel; Carrie L. Taylor, YR activist who took over as president of the county’s Republican Women’s Club a few months ago; Joseph M. Tropp, vice-chairman of ROC (“Republicans of Cecil County”), a “new” group that lives on the YR website with overlapping officers; and County Commissioner Jim Mullin (R-1st) who says YR volunteers helped him win his 2008 election. (A lot of money from fellow Republican Commissioner Rebecca Demmler didn’t hurt either.)

     Patterson, Zeauskas, Dawkins, Dunn and Taylor are all running for other elected posts in addition to their candidacy for the GOP committee. Patterson is running for a state delegate seat while Taylor has filed for county Treasurer. The other three are running for county commissioner seats.

    TEA PARTY: (5)

     Donna Caudell, a founder of the “Cecil County Patriots” that is the local arm of the “Tea Party” movement; her sister, Jackie Gregory; Harry Hite III; Tom Kenny; and Peter Oliphant, who has also been active in the Jim Rutledge GOP campaign for Senate.

   Then there are some who don’t fit neatly into one category. Ted Kolodzey started out as a Young Republican but drifted away from that group and has also been active with the Tea Party, but is increasingly focused on his own campaign for the Republican nomination for county Commissioner in District 3.

     Devon Perry, a 19 year old student at Towson University, is a graduate of Elkton Christian academy where he played football, according to his MySpace page, which doesn’t mention any political leanings.  Anneliese Johnson of Rising Sun is also an unknown factor. [UPDATE: In an interview with Cecil Times, Johnson identified herself as a 30-year old mother of three young children, an honors graduate of Towson University and studying for a master’s degree in social science at Towson. She decided to run because she is “interested in public policy” issues, although “I’m not so comfortable with the politician aspects” and campaigning for a political post.]

     The YR gang will no doubt be running as a “slate.”  The incumbent group has made no decisions on whether to run as a ‘slate,’ sources said. But each camp would have to pick up two of the ‘wild cards’ to round out their ticket. Kolodzey seems to be a potential choice for the incumbent camp. And the YR’ers would likely try to pull from the Tea Party camp.

    Who thought a simple party committee election could have such drama?


Fifth District Commissioner Race: Home Cookin’ and Stewart’s Money

November 3, 2008

  The Republican and Democratic opponents in the Fifth District contest for Cecil County Commissioner have raised comparable amounts of campaign contributions, while write-in candidate Tom McWilliams has a secret weapon: his wife’s home cooking, according to campaign finance reports filed Oct. 24.

    But some supporters of the two major candidates might be surprised at just who is donating to them.

   McWilliams, a perpetual candidate who has previously run unsuccessfully for Commissioner and a school board seat, lost the Republican primary to Robert Hodge, a local businessman and farmer. McWilliams is waging an uphill struggle as a write-in candidate in the November election and has held yard sales and picnics, raising just $886 in direct contributions and $1,050 in fundraiser ticket purchases. He also loaned his campaign $6,000 in October. McWilliams lists $372 in in-kind donations, such as food and drinks for fundraising events. While several people donated appetizers valued at $10, his wife’s culinary contribution was valued at $50. A smart husband knows to compliment his wife’s cooking, even in politics.

     Hodge reports raising a total of $21,405, including loaning his campaign $3,000. His Democratic opponent, Sharon Weygand, reports raising a total of $19,637, with no loans. The candidates are running for the seat now held by Commissioner Mark Guns, who decided not to run for re-election.  Hodge has had a high-profile candidacy all year, with many paid billboard sites on highways around the county.  Weygand seemed to have a lower profile–waving hand-held signs on Route 40– so it is perhaps surprising to see that she raised so much money and had no loans, according to the October reports.  There could still be a last minute infusion of cash on both sides in the last week or so before the election, but we won’t know the final contributions tally until after the election when new reports are filed.

     Weygand’s largest chunk of donations– $3,000– came from two entities related to the Stewart’s land development business: $1,500 from Stewart Associates Land Development, Inc.,  and $1,500 from York Building Products Co. Both firms have the same address in York, PA and are part of the Stewart Companies. Stewart’s, one of the largest landowners in the county, is banking heavily on approval of the statewide slots referendum and has signed an option deal with Penn National gaming that wants to develop a slots facility on Stewart land in Cecil County. York Building Products operates three sand and gravel production sites in Cecil County.

   The Stewart-related donations amounted to more than a quarter of Weygand’s $11,555 in contributions from individuals and businesses. That might surprise some of the no-growth folks who made small donations to her campaign, too.

 Other major donations to Weygand include $1,000 from Klines Live Fish Co. in Chesapeake City; $1,000 from Hutton Farms in Elkton, and $500 from Alice Arbuckle, who ran unsuccessfully for County Commissioner in the last local election and famously advocated county-hosted camel races as a tourist attraction. Weygand also received $345 from the husband (Ron) of County Commissioner Rebecca Demmler,  $200 from former County Commissioner and restauranteur Phyllis Kilby, $100 from retiring County Commissioner Bill Manlove, $80 from Commissioner Wayne Tome and $20 from Commissioner Brian Lockhart. 

    Weygand also received a $1,000 donation from the Political Action Committee (PAC) associated with Lodge 2, Cecil County Fraternal Order of Police, which endorsed her candidacy; $500 from the county’s Democratic Central Committee; $750 from the county Democrat Club and $100 from the campaign of Frank Kratovil, the Democratic nominee in the 1st District Congressional contest.

    Weygand did not disclose individual identities for most of the ticket purchasers for her fund-raising events, tallying a total of $5,613 in ticket sales.

   On the Republican side, Hodge reported individual and business donations of $7,140– actually, less than Weygand’s $11,555. Unlike Weygand, Hodge reports amounts and identities for ticket purchases by individuals and businesses, totaling $6,465.

    Hodge’s largest individual donation of $1,000 came from Railroad Associates Corp. of Hershey, Pa. A local business, Graphics Inc., gave $500 plus $500 in ticket purchases, for a total of $1,000. Norman Wehner, a local property owner active with the county landlord’s association, donated $500 plus purchased fundraiser event tickets worth $100. James Buckland, an executive with Artesian water that recently won County Commissioners’  approval for its takeover of county water and sewer facilities, bought Hodge fundraiser tickets worth $150.

 Most of Hodge’s donations were fairly small and many came from recognizable Republicans around the county. Business entities donating included Perrin Accounting of North East ($500 in donations), Priapi Gardens in Cecilton ($200 in ticket purchases); Kingfisher Environmental  Services, Inc., of Elkton ($200 in ticket purchases.) There were also fundraiser ticket purchases from some individuals involved in real estate, such as $250 in tickets bought by Harlan Williams and his wife.

    Hodge also received $2,500 from Republican clubs and $2,200 from the county’s GOP central committee. Del. Dick Sossi (R) bought a $25 fundraiser ticket, as did Republican commissioner 1st District candidate Jim Mullin. Commissioner Rebecca Demmler– a fellow Republican and the chief donor to Mullin’s campaign, giving him $2,500– anted up just $50 for Hodge fundraiser tickets.

   Which just goes to show: in politics, it isn’t always just about politics or party labels.


Demmler Bankrolls Mullin: Commissioner Payback Time?

October 30, 2008

    We’re BAACK– Sorry to have taken a hiatus, but we were sick and tired,  and mostly sick. So since we don’t get paid for this,  it has taken us a while to report and write what our local “newspaper” with full time paid employees hasn’t: new campaign finance reports– filed 10/24/08– for local County Commissioner candidates. First, we’ll look at the 1st District Commissioner race between Republican Jim Mullin and Democrat Pamela H. Bailey.

     There’s not much to report on Pamela Bailey, who has not filed a detailed campaign finance report.  According to Cecil County election officials, she filed an affadavit saying she would not be raising or spending over $1,000, so she does not have to file a full report either on paper locally or online with the state Board of Elections.  In that case, we are surprised to see so many printed yard signs around her home base of Earleville. As she has stated to the public, she already has a full-time job as a secretary at the School of Technology and two part-time jobs. So who knows how much time she has to spare for fundraising, campaigning or actually serving as a County Commissioner.

    Without a serious opponent, Republican Jim Mullin of Earleville seems to be a shoo-in in the 1st District. But looking at his campaign finances, there is a very interesting angle: current County Commissioner Rebecca Demmler is his biggest donor. Could it be payback for the financial support Mullin gave her when she was running for County Commissioner in the last local election? Or could it be “pay it forward,” with Demmler donating to a pal she expects will vote along with her as a Commissioner?

    In his pre-general election report, Mullin states he has raised a total of $10,294 in individual, party committee and Political Action Committee donations.  He has also made a personal loan to his campaign of $8,550, which is counted as a separate line item in addition to the $10,294 in donations.

    But the telling category is the sub-set of individual and business donors, amounting to $7,094. Of that figure, current County Commissioner Rebecca Demmler made an outright donation of $2,000 on 5/03/08 and $500 on 9/15/08, for a total of $2,500– or nearly a third of all donations. Mullin also does not report individual identities of purchasers of tickets to his fundraisers– listing instead, a “lump sum” of receipts from two campaign fundraisers, amounting to a total of $1,429. So there is no way of telling whose other donations might be included under this anonymous category.

    Mullin also received a $1,000 Political Action Committee (PAC) donation from the Cecil County Lodge #2, Fraternal Order of Police in Elkton, on 9/25/08. But drilling down in his expenditures, you find he made a “transfer” of funds  of $280 out of his campaign treasury previously, on 7/24/08, to the same FOP lodge, “including ticket purchases.” So the net FOP cash into the Mullin campaign amounts to $720. The ‘transfer’ from Mullin to the FOP occurred before the FOP donation to him.

    Mullin also received $2,200 from the county’s Republican Central Committee. (Funny, but we didn’t see a Mullin donation to fellow Republican Robert Hodge, who chairs the GOP central committee and is running in the 5th Commissioner district, beyond a puny $25 fundraiser ticket.)

   It is also telling who hasn’t yet donated to Mullin’s campaign. No members of the local Republican state legislative delegation whose districts coincide with Mullin’s local turf–Del. Michael Smigiel, Del. Dick Sossi or Mr. Moneybags State Sen. E.J. Pipkin– have donated to Mullin. That is probably because they know a sure thing when they see it and are saving their cash for their own  re-election efforts, or other Republican candidates with more contested campaigns this year.

   But we are struck by Commissioner Demmler’s investment of such a large amount in the sure-thing candidacy of Mullin.  Both Demmler and Mullin are Republicans, but more than party loyalty is at work here, as we will document subsequently. (Demmler has made a hiccup $50 ticket purchases donation to fellow Republican Robert Hodge, running in the 5th District Commissioner race, while her husband has donated lots more to 5th District Democratic opponent Sharon Weygand and he also made a donation to write-in candidate Tom McWilliams in that 5th District contest. More on that in our next posting.)