36th Dist: Defeated Del. Sossi Flush with Campaign $; Winner Hershey Mired in Debt

October 25, 2010

The apparent next Delegate from Queen Anne’s County representing the 36th District, Stephen S. Hershey, Jr., is heavily in debt, according to campaign finance reports filed with the state, while the incumbent Republican he defeated in the GOP primary, Del. Richard Sossi, has a substantial surplus that could fund another campaign for state office in the future.

Sossi lost the seat by 124 votes in the Republican primary. No Democrat has filed to run against Hershey in the general election. Sossi has declined to authorize a write-in campaign in the general election, which means that even if his supporters cast write-in votes for Sossi, election officials would not tally them.

Hershey has not been seen on the campaign trail at candidate forums since his narrow primary win. Sossi, who has been actively campaigning for the gubernatorial candidacy of Republican Bob Ehrlich, has been greeted with standing ovations at community and political events around the district since the primary.

Sossi had been considering a run for the Senate seat from the 36th Dist. if incumbent Republican E.J. Pipkin vacated it for a statewide run. But Pipkin decided to run for re-election, although he is widely expected to run for a statewide office in four years. That would free up the Senate seat, and potentially trigger a GOP primary clash between Sossi and Pipkin ally Del. Michael Smigiel, R-Cecil County.

Knocking off Sossi this year in the delegate race from Queen Anne’s County could have been seen as a bid to clear the way for Smigiel in a future Senate race. Pipkin endorsed Hershey against Sossi in the primary in a controversial last-minute mailing days before the primary.

Hershey listed campaign expenditures of $11,699 in his most recent report, filed 10/22/10, on top of $2,298 in expenditures listed in his 9/3/10 report to the state and $942 in spending shown on his 8/17/10 report—for a total in campaign expenditures of $14,939.

Hershey loaned his campaign another $9,000 in the final days before the GOP primary, on top of earlier loans to his campaign of $10,000. His campaign fund ended the reporting period with $19,000 in outstanding loans but cash on hand balance of about $7,403.

A candidate can hold fundraisers and accept donations even after the election to raise money that can be used to re-pay personal loans to the campaign. And other candidates can transfer money from their own accounts to help pay off a different candidate’s debts.

Hershey also reported contributions of $2,399, with almost all of the 19 donations coming from outside the 36th District. In-district contributions were $300 from Sharon Dobson, of Stevensville and $50 from Bennett Point General Store in Queenstown.

Most of Hershey’s expenses were for controversial mailings he sent out a few days before the primary, including one in which he published pictures showing Del. Sossi with his eyes closed, appearing to sleep. From the start of his campaign, Hershey’s literature and website had claimed he was the more “energetic” candidate.

Hershey spent $9,410 for two mailings sent out by a Richmond, VA direct mail house, the records show. The same firm also received $995 for printing palm cards. He also paid $683 for ads in area newspapers owned by Chesapeake Publishing.

Although it is not listed on Hershey’s report as an in-kind or other source of support, Hershey benefitted from a mailing by Sen. Pipkin, in which he endorsed Hershey for delegate. Pipkin’s latest campaign finance report shows he used the same Richmond VA direct mail house as Hershey and paid $4,705 each for two mailings, for a total of $9,410. Pipkin’s report does not refer to the endorsement of Hershey mailing as such but he does list his two mailing expenditures separately.

Meanwhile, Sossi’s latest campaign finance report shows he still has $28,444 cash on hand in his account. That was after spending $13,662 since early August, on top of $2,776 reported on his 9/3/10 campaign report; $1,623 in expenditures listed on his 8/17/10 report; and $3,501 in expenditures shown on his 1/20/10 report. Those reports show a total of $21,562 in expenditures by Sossi for his campaign.

Hershey supporters have criticized Sossi for not spending more on the GOP primary campaign and apparently underestimating how much of a political threat the largely unknown Hershey’s campaign was to the incumbent.

In his latest report, Sossi showed spending of $6,980 on political advertising, with all but $450 for radio ads going to ads in area newspapers owned by Chesapeake Publishing. He also spent $1,507 on printing costs for campaign literature. In his previous campaign finance report, Sossi accounted for two direct mailings costing $1,815, targeting senior citizens and newly-registered Republicans in the district.

(See previous Cecil Times report on campaign finance in the Sossi-Hershey race, and the last-minute mailings, posted here: http://ceciltimes.com/2010/09/dist-36-sossi-melts-hershey-on-campaign-gop-primary-endorsement-tiff/

In the final days before the Sept.14 primary, Sossi transferred out a total of $3,000 from his campaign fund to other candidates, donating $1,000 each to two candidates in Baltimore and one in Hagerstown.

During the latest reporting period, Sossi received $5,036 in contributions, with nearly all of them coming from individuals and businesses located within the 36th District.

District 36 elects three delegates—one each from Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties—and voters from each county, plus part of Caroline County, get to vote for all three delegate slots.

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