Republicans Sweep Cecil County Elections; Charter Govt. Wins Big

November 3, 2010

Cecil County voters swept Republicans into office in most major local contests Tuesday, turning the five-member Board of Commissioners into an all-GOP panel for the first time while ousting the longtime Democratic Clerk of the Circuit Court and the Democratic State’s Attorney.

But, in one of the ultimate ironies of Tuesday’s balloting, voters overwhelmingly approved an overhaul of county government to a charter system of governance, under which a new county executive position will be created and the commissioners transformed into a County Council with fewer individual powers. Voters have repeatedly rejected ballot issues for charter in the past but advocates argued that the county government had become dysfunctional by having to receive approval from the state legislature for even minor legislative actions.

The only incumbent Commissioner running Tuesday, Democrat Brian Lockhart, was solidly defeated by newcomer Michael Dunn, R, a legislative aide to Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36.) Lockhart, the President of the current board, received 11,942 votes, or 43.5 percent, while Dunn topped him with 15,497 votes, or 56.4 percent, in District 3, which is based in the Rising Sun area.

Another Republican victor was Diana Broomell, who defeated former Superintendent of Schools Carl Roberts, a Democrat, in District 4. Roberts had defeated incumbent Commissioner Wayne Tome in the Democratic primary. Broomell lost to Tome in the 2006 Commissioners contest.

Broomell drew support from local “tea party” activists as well as Republicans. She racked up 15,185 votes, or 54.9 percent, to Roberts’ 12,443 votes, or 45 percent.

In District 2, Republican Tari Moore defeated Earl Piner Sr. by a vote of 16,384 or 59.3 percent. Piner received 11,222 votes, or 40.6 percent. Moore will hold the seat currently held by Republican Rebecca Demmler, who did not seek re-election.

For the first time since the Board of Commissioners was expanded from three members to five, all seats will be held by Republicans. Current Republican Commissioners Robert Hodge (5th) and James Mullin (1st) are not up for election until 2012.

In other races, Christopher Eastridge, the incumbent State’s Attorney and a Democrat, was soundly defeated by Republican Ellis Rollins III, who received 16,995 or 60.7 percent, to Eastridge’s 10,966 votes, or 39.19 percent.

The veteran clerk of the Circuit Court, William Brueckman, a Democrat, lost to Republican challenger Derrick Lowe. Brueckman received 11,550 votes, or 41.85 percent, while Lowe won 16,034 votes, or 58.1 percent.

Incumbent county Treasurer Pam Howard fell behind her GOP challenger, William Feehley. She received 13,828 or 49.29 percent, while Feehley won 14,207 votes, or 50.64 percent. However, absentee and provisional ballots that will be counted later might possibly alter the outcome of the relatively close contest.

Ironically, the position of an elected Treasurer will be eliminated under the transition to a charter form of government approved by voters on Tuesday. The charter system would provide for an appointed financial officer within the county government structure.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was the strong pro-charter showing. There were 14,477 “yes” votes—58.35 percent– while 10,334 votes – or 41.65 percent– were cast against charter government.

Del. Smigiel and Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-36) campaigned vociferously against the charter government proposal, taking out full page newspaper ads, printing campaign flyers and attacking the County Commissioners for what the duo claimed was an improper attempt to support the “Friends of Charter” volunteer group that created a ballot issue committee to support a yes vote on charter.

Charter supporters argued the change was needed to allow local decisions to be made by local officials instead of having major decisions made in Annapolis. Smigiel and Pipkin have been increasingly combative with the Commissioners in recent years and unsuccessfully tried to pass legislation to dictate labor practices and the county tax rate.

And in yet another irony of the evening, while there is now full GOP control of the Board of Commissioners, Hodge and Moore are not in the Smigiel-Pipkin camp. Mullin and Dunn are full-fledged members of the Smigiel-Pipkin slate. The question mark will be Broomell, who formerly worked as a legislative aide to Smigiel but has said she had distanced herself from him politically.

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