Commish Diana Broomell Files for Cecil County Executive, GOP Primary Gets Crowded
Cecil County Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4) filed Tuesday as a candidate for County Executive, entering a crowded primary field that sets up a head to head duel with County Commissioner Tari Moore (R-5)—with some potential other candidate surprises.
Broomell’s candidacy was widely expected, but the multiple-candidate field — which could grow even larger before the 9 PM Wednesday 1/11/12 candidate filing deadline—so far sets up three top tier candidates and several lower tier wannabes in the Republican primary.
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, a new candidate emerged Tuesday as Winston Robinson, of Elkton, filed for County Executive to challenge Robert McKnight, the mayor of North East, in the Democratic primary.
McKnight filed his candidacy for County Executive last October. Robinson is a former accounting manager in the Cecil County Treasurer’s office and has worked as a senior financial officer for the city of Wilmington, DE. (Cecil Times attempted to contact him at the phone listing provided to the Board of Elections but could not leave a message there.)
On the Republican side, Broomell, who was elected as a County Commissioner in the 2010 election when Republicans swept to control of the five-member board, has been an advocate of government-supported farmland preservation and agricultural “tourism” as an economic development objective. She is a former aide to Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36).
Broomell has become an increasingly powerful, and divisive, leader on the county board, eclipsing the actual President of the board, James Mullin (R-1) and setting the agenda for county government policies and priorities. She has repeatedly demanded “do-overs” of policy decisions made by past county Commissioners and even the current Board within weeks of decisions on which she has lost a majority vote, such as the update of the county’s ethics code and financial disclosure rules.
Broomell has told local political figures and citizens that she has “nothing to lose” by running for County Executive in 2012, since even if she loses, she would still hold her district seat until the 2014 election. And, since she lost her paying part-time job as a manager of the “Havre de Grace Main Street” community development program in Harford County, the hefty salary of county executive—at least $96,000—would be a welcome boost from the $25,000 salary with no benefits of a member of the new County Council that will be in place in 2013.
Broomell’s chief rival for the GOP nomination for Cecil County Executive is Moore, a former executive director of the county’s Chamber of Commerce. In her brief tenure as a commissioner, Moore has developed a profile of a hard-working, homework-doing commissioner, involved in state-wide government organizations such as the Maryland Association of Counties (MACO) while still portraying herself as accessible to citizens at multiple local events.
Initially, Moore projected a “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” image but in recent months she has developed a harder-hitting, but fact-based, persona and has directly challenged Broomell on issues.
The last top-tier candidate is former County Commissioner Harry Hepbron, a Republican who formerly represented the Rising Sun-area district. He served two terms as a County Commissioner and is the founder and operator of the popular, award-winning Dove Valley Vineyards and Winery. Hepbron, a plain-spoken farmer and businessman with support in the western part of the county and among farm and business groups, has said he is running for county executive because of his concerns with the current political and business climate among county officials.
In a potential cat-fight between Broomell and Moore, the well-known and popular Hepbron has the chance to squeak into contention.
At the secondary tier of GOP primary candidates are Pete Pritchard, a conservative activist and retired civilian employee at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County who was an unsuccessful candidate for county school board; Paul Trapani, a marina operator who has complained about problems and delays in obtaining permits from local government; and Richard T. Boyle, a retiree and longtime budget critic at county meetings.