Cecil County Business Leaders Create PAC for 2012 Candidates
A bipartisan coalition of business leaders has formed a political action committee to support political candidates in Cecil County for the 2012 elections that will “promote the economic viability” of the county.
The group, dubbed “Cecil Business Leaders for Better Government,” has scheduled a kick-off event on Dec. 7 at Mick’s Crab House on Route 40 in Elkton to recruit supporters and explain its goals.
As testament to its serious intent, the group filed as a political action committee (PAC) with the state Board of Elections on 11/7/11, listing David K. Williams, of the Williams car dealership in Elkton, as chairman. The treasurer is Alan J. McCarthy of Chesapeake City, a distinguished equine veterinarian and member of the Cecil College Foundation board of directors. (Both attended Tuesday’s worksession of the county commissioners to observe the panel in action—or inaction.)
The organization has created a website that is still under development but outlines its goals and agenda: http://www.cecilbusinessleaders.com/default.html
Many of the organizers of the group have been dismayed at the current direction and leadership of the Cecil County Commissioners, especially the “Three Amigos” voting bloc majority of the current five-member Board. The Amigos bloc—consisting of Commissioners Diana Broomell (R-4), Michael Dunn (R-3) and James Mullin (R-1)– has been viewed as anti-business and regressive, repeatedly re-visiting many decisions made over the past four years by a previous Board of Commissioners.
“We need leaders,” said Harlan Williams, a Realtor who has been involved in organizing the group. “It’s ridiculous what is going on,” he said, and “we need to encourage people who are committed to community service to get involved” in local politics.
Unique among the new group’s goals is to “vett” potential candidates, or review their credentials and evaluate their qualifications and inform voters. Especially in the 2010 election, some largely unknown candidates with minimal credentials filed for election and voters were largely left in the dark about their personal backgrounds, education and qualifications for office.
The new PAC states its “mission” is “To recruit and support highly qualified candidates for elected offices, thereby promoting the economic viability of Cecil County.” Other goals include fundraising, voter education, public information and to “challenge anti-groups,” described as “any groups propagating false or misleading information on subjects of our interest” and such groups “will be met with factual and sound opposition.”
Although not named by the new PAC, the two most prominent groups of that description are the Appleton Regional Community Alliance (ARCA) and the Cecil Land Use Alliance (CLUA), which opposed the privatization of county water and sewer services. Those groups lost a lengthy and costly legal challenge to the sale but their allies among the Three Amigos threw up procedural roadblocks that eventually led the private Artesian Resources to abandon its contract to buy four county sewage treatment plants several months ago.
Under state election laws, a PAC may transfer $6,000 to an individual candidate— a larger amount than the $4,000 donation limit on an individual’s contributions to a candidate in an election cycle (which is generally a four year period under state law.)
There are already several PACs supporting Cecil County political candidates, including longstanding groups such as the Cecil County Republican Club’s PAC and a new “Republicans of Cecil PAC” aligned with the Smipkin political organization, led by Del. Michael Smigel and Sen. E.J. Pipkin, both R-36, in 2010. However, the new business group is bipartisan and its mission statement does not limit donations to candidates of any particular political party.
The political stakes are higher in 2012, with Cecil County slated to elect its first County Executive and two members of a new County Council under the new Charter Government system approved by voters in 2010. Seats held by current County Commissioners James Mullin (R-1) and Robert Hodge (R-5) are at stake in 2012.
Hodge has filed for re-election. [UPDATE: Mullin filed his candidacy papers for his 1st District seat on 11/28/11.] Previously, Mullin emphatically stated, in an appearance before an Earleville church group a few months ago, that he would not be a candidate for county executive.
For County Executive, only Democrat Robert McKnight, the mayor of North East, has filed his candidacy. Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2) has said she plans to run for county executive.