Commissioner Tari Moore, R, to Run for Cecil County Executive
Cecil County Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2) has decided to run for County Executive in the 2012 election, seeking the first-ever executive position in county government.
Moore had been known to be considering a run for the post for some time but the freshman commissioner, who won her current seat in the 2010 election, told Cecil Times on Saturday that “A decision has been made…and the decision is to run.”
Moore’s intentions were initially disclosed by Keith Baynes during a fundraiser at his Calvert home for his own 2012 election campaign to retain his seat as a Cecil County Circuit Court judge. Baynes introduced her to the crowd of about 200 people as “a candidate for County Executive.” That announcement was greeted with some gasps and hearty applause from the politically mixed crowd.
In her brief tenure as a commissioner, Moore has tackled some of the thorniest and most complex issues facing the county. She sounded the initial alarm locally about “Plan Maryland,” a state initiative that many county officials around the state fear could result in state limits on most growth and supersede local planning authority. She has also been active in the Maryland Association of Counties, representing Cecil on the group’s board.
During this year’s budget deliberations, Moore attempted to work out a compromise to restore $314,000 cut from the education budget and she drilled down into overall expenditures to come up with $366,000 in spending cuts to more than compensate for the school aid. But in a last-minute change of heart, Board President James Mullin (R-1) refused to honor his earlier pledge to provide the school funds if Moore found offsets.
Moore ultimately voted against the budget and sharply rebuked a Mullin-led majority of the board for engaging in “political BS” and lacking “courage” during the budget process. It was a departure from her usually perpetually polite persona, but this year’s budget process was a frustrating exercise for all involved. Eventually, the 3-2 Mullin majority used cuts and reserve funds to give homeowners a half-cent tax rate break that amounted to about the cost of a ‘happy meal’ in homeowners’ pockets– while enacting a budget that is requiring teacher and staff layoffs in the public schools.
Part of her consideration of a run for county executive was what would happen to her legislative seat if she wins. After the 2012 election in which the county’s first County Executive will be selected, the current commissioner board will become a County Council. The shift to a charter form of government, with a full-time county executive and five part-time County Council members, was approved by voters last November.
If she wins, her council seat would be filled for the two years left on its term by the county’s Republican Central Committee, which is dominated by acolytes of the political machine organized by Del. Michael Smigiel and Sen. E .J. Pipkin, both R-36th Dist. Mullin and Commissioner Michael Dunn (R-3) are firmly aligned with the Smipkins while Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4) has generally voted with Mullin and Dunn.
However, Mullin’s seat is at stake in the 2012 elections and a turnover in that seat could offset a Smipkin takeover of the Moore seat. Also at stake in the 2012 election is the Dist. 5 seat currently held by Robert Hodge, a Republican who has usually sided with Moore. Hodge is expected to seek re-election.
Moore’s run for county executive could face a difficult Republican primary contest before the general election.
Pipkin’s camp has been putting out persistent warnings that the uber-wealthy Pipkin is planning a run for county executive in 2012. His Senate seat is not up for election until 2014 so he could run for local office while holding on to the state seat. But Pipkin, who has run for U.S. Senate and Congress and failed both times while still retaining his state Senate seat, is widely viewed as having much higher ambitions than worrying about potholes in Earleville.
The state Comptroller’s seat is expected to be up for grabs in 2014 and so far the only visible Republican on the 2014 gubernatorial horizon is Harford County executive David Craig. Taking on a Cecil County executive post in 2012 would not leave much time to mount a statewide campaign in 2014. Also at play is the pending redistricting of the 1st District Congress seat, which could make incumbent Republican Andy Harris more vulnerable to another Pipkin challenge in 2012.
Meanwhile, another possible GOP candidate for county executive is Mario Gangemi, an engineer and former head of the Fair Hill Nature Center board. But he is considered to be unwilling to challenge Pipkin in a primary.
On the Democratic side, North East Mayor Bob McKnight is actively seeking support for his candidacy for county executive. And former County Commissioner Wayne Tome, currently the mayor of Port Deposit, is considering a run for the post.
Moore said she would make a formal announcement of her candidacy in September.