Cecil County GOP Soap Opera Returns: Central Committee Vacancy Highlights Splits
The 2010 Cecil County political soap opera, â€śas the Republican Central Committee turns,â€ť is back for an encore performance this year.
James W. Hutchinson, a member of the former Cecil County Republican Central Committee who was elected to the panel in the September GOP primary election, resigned from the committee on Thursday, and within hours his name was removed from the committeeâ€™s membership roster on its website. Hutchinson was considered an independent-minded Republican, not aligned with any group or faction, when he was originally appointed to the committee.
However, he joined the â€śRepublicans of Cecil Fiscal Conservative Team Slate,â€ť organized by Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-36) and Del. Michael D. Smigiel (R-36) that ran a joint campaign, largely funded by Pipkin campaign accounts, for the nine seats on the Central Committee. A total of 22 candidates filed for the 9 seats at stake in last yearâ€™s primary, and the Pipkin-Smigiel group won a solid seven-seat majority. [See results report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2010/09/republican-committee-war-pipkin-smigiel-slate-wins-majority-seats/
Hutchinsonâ€™s resignation was characterized as prompted by personal and professional considerations, but other Republicans indicated there are deeper divisions in the committee that have been simmering for several months and the process for filling the newly vacant seat will highlight such issues.
Asked by Cecil Times to discuss his decision to leave the panel, Hutchinson responded with an emailed statement:
â€śThank you for the opportunity to release a statement on your news [site.] My decision to resign from the Cecil County Republican Central Committee was a personal decision that was based on many factors. This decision was not made lightly. My family and I discussed this matter and prayed about it together. After a period of time and much deliberation, it became clear to me that this is the right decision and the right time to move forward with my resignation.
â€śI wish all the best to the Cecil County Republican Central Committee. My family and I will continue to support Republican candidates and elected officials.â€ť
Although he ran as a member of the Smipkin slate, Hutchinson maintained an independent website during the election campaign (which has now been disabled). He also continued to work with the existing central committee to update its own website last year, posting informational material about upcoming events and issues and listing his own name on his contributions.
However, after the election and the shift to the Smipkin slate control, the central committeeâ€™s website took a sharp right turn, with control shifting to Ted Patterson, who won a seat on the Central Committee but lost his bid to unseat Del. David Rudolph (D-34B). Rather than the usual listings of meetings, chicken dinners and organizational details, Patterson posted his recommended â€śreading listâ€ť including both historical documents and arch conservative ideological tracts. (See: http://cecilgop.com/page/2/?s=ted
Patterson also upset other Republicans when he organized an official meeting of the Central Committee at which a film highlighting the ultra-conservative John Birch Society was presented. Although Chris Zeauskas is officially the chairman of the committee, Republican sources who spoke on condition of anonymity pointed at Patterson as actually running the show. Patterson holds the title of secretary of the committee.
One holdover from the old Central Committee, Joe Carabetta, told Cecil Times that there have been irregularities in the handling of official committee meetings. One meeting was not announced 10 days in advance as required by the bylaws and another session was abruptly cancelled and converted to a â€śteleconferenceâ€ť although some committee members were not notified in advance and the public was not advised of the change.
Carabetta and Ted Kolodzey, a member of the local â€śtea partyâ€ť organization, were the only two members elected to the Central Committee last year who were not part of the Smipkin slate.
Hutchinsonâ€™s replacement on the committee will be picked by other members of the committee and the panelâ€™s bylaws are vague on the selection process. In the past, Carabetta and other Republicans said, the committee posted public notices for candidates to fill a vacancy, had them fill out a formal application listing their accomplishments and how they could contribute to the panel, and candidates were interviewed personally by the full committee.
However, it appears likely that the committee will move to consolidate control of the panel by the â€śYoung Republicansâ€ť club that dominates the panel and its non-age limited clone, â€śRepublicans of Cecilâ€ť (ROC) group that shares the YR website. Indeed, the ink was barely dry on Hutchinsonâ€™s resignation letter when a new â€śvoiceâ€ť emerged on Friday.
Joseph Tropp, vice-chairman of ROC and a losing candidate for central committee in the GOP primary, suddenly posted a one paragraph â€śanalysisâ€ť of the proposed state septic limits legislation on the ROC website.(Pattersonâ€™s wife, Jillian, is treasurer of the ROC club). Several GOP sources indicated they expected the committee to install Tropp on the panel.
Meanwhile, multiple sources indicated the YR group dominating the central committee has become disillusioned with Sen. Pipkin due to his sponsorship of several state bond bills in the General Assembly this year that would benefit local projects in the 36th district, including several in Kent, Queen Anneâ€™s and Caroline counties. (CORRECTION: One bill was offered for Cecil County: $100,000 for the private Plumpton Park Zoo to renovate a building for its giraffe.) The YR group believes that such bond bills amount to â€śearmarksâ€ť that they oppose as wasteful spending even though they would benefit local communities.
Gratitude is short-lived among this group. Pipkin transferred $5,000 from his own senatorial campaign fund to the â€śslateâ€ť campaign account and was the principal bankroller of the groupâ€™s campaign for Central Committee seats. Of course, our other resident campaign bankroller, Cecil County Commissioner James Mullin (R-1) was another donor to the slate, with a $500 check. Another affiliated group, the ROC PAC, contributed another $800 to the slate, while ROC PAC was in turn largely financed by Mullin.
(For background on the Smipkin slateâ€™s campaign for GOP central commttee, see previous report here: