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.

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