Cecil County GOP Soap Opera Returns: Central Committee Vacancy Highlights Splits

March 13, 2011
By

The 2010 Cecil County political soap opera, “as the Republican Central Committee turns,” 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 committee’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 “Republicans of Cecil Fiscal Conservative Team Slate,” 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 year’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/

Hutchinson’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:

“Thank 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.

“I wish all the best to the Cecil County Republican Central Committee. My family and I will continue to support Republican candidates and elected officials.”

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 committee’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 “reading list” 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 “teleconference” 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 “tea party” organization, were the only two members elected to the Central Committee last year who were not part of the Smipkin slate.

Hutchinson’s replacement on the committee will be picked by other members of the committee and the panel’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 “Young Republicans” club that dominates the panel and its non-age limited clone, “Republicans of Cecil” (ROC) group that shares the YR website. Indeed, the ink was barely dry on Hutchinson’s resignation letter when a new “voice” 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 “analysis” of the proposed state septic limits legislation on the ROC website.(Patterson’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 Anne’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 “earmarks” 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 “slate” campaign account and was the principal bankroller of the group’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 slate’s campaign for GOP central commttee, see previous report here:
http://ceciltimes.com/2010/08/as-the-gop-central-committee-turns-new-drama-unfolds-online/

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4 Responses to Cecil County GOP Soap Opera Returns: Central Committee Vacancy Highlights Splits

  1. Michael W. Dawson on March 13, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Does not the Party have more important things to be concerned with than the gathering of more power and control to the District 36 alliance? This approach of a “scorched earth” policy among the controlling alliance on the Cecil County Republican Central Committee has got to stop.

    We will be nominating our candidate for the Cecil’s first County Executive in less than one year*. Yet we have a county central committee so disorganized it cannot schedule and conduct its own meetings appropriately, and spends its valuable time on philosophical presentations and discussions. I’m all for studies in academia, but not in the official duties of a county central committee.

    The committee has an obligation to the Republicans of Cecil County to do the job it was elected to perform. I suggest if they want a platform from which to chant their rhetoric, that they not use the platform of the central committee to do it.

    * Note: There is introduced legislation pending in both houses of the MD General Assembly that will change the dates of both the presidential and gubernatorial primaries. Senate Bill 820/HB 671, as reflected in the current draft, seeks to move the presidential primary in the upcoming election cycle from Feb. 14, 2012 to April 3, 2012. The 2014 gubernatorial primary will see a move to June 24. This will be the first change to the gubernatorial primary date since 1966, prior to which it was held on the third Tuesday in May.

    Changes to the primary election dates have been necessitated by the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE) passed by Congress in October 2009. The federal law requires that service members receive absentee ballots at least 45 days before the November general election. The General Assembly failed to address this matter in its 2010 session and Gov. Martin O’Malley was widely critized last August for his waiver application to the US Department of Justice for non-compliance to the law.

    Editor’s Note: Mr. Dawson was the Constitution Party candidate for Delegate in Dist. 34B.

    Apart from the military voting rights law, there are other political considerations: 2012 is a presidential election year and national party rules insist that New Hampshire be the first primary state and Iowa the first caucus state. Leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties in Maryland have been exploring the prospect of linking the state to an early–but not too early– “super Tuesday” regional primary date so that Maryland would be influential in the national party primary process.

    • Real REP on March 14, 2011 at 7:13 am

      I agree completely with Michael W. Dawson (not to be confused with Delegate Smigiel’s aide “Mad Mike” Dawson). I believe that the voters are seeing the light and beginning to recognize the difference between the Republican Party and the SMIPKIN Party.

      • RED 833 on March 14, 2011 at 1:47 pm

        I believe that Republican and Democratic activists should join to work toward the election of a county executive who would advance the interests of Cecil County.

  2. Tina Sharp on March 15, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    The voters next choice was Bob Amato, that is who should be appointed. The voters spoke let them be heard!

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