Cecil County Exec: Pam Howard Files as Democrat; Michael A. Dawson Files as Smipkin Stand-in for GOP

January 11, 2012

The deadline for candidates filing for Cecil County Executive Wednesday night brought a well-known political veteran back to the stage and a stand-in for the Smipkin political organization. But the crowded and convoluted field was just as remarkable for who didn’t file to run.

Political and government veteran Pam Howard– the longtime county Treasurer who narrowly lost re-election by 193 votes to Republican William Feehley in 2010– filed to run as a Democrat for County Executive Wednesday morning, expanding the Democratic field to three candidates. Howard, who served three terms as Treasurer, holds a degree in accounting from the University of Delaware and was in charge of supervising all county revenues, income and expenditures, as well as collecting property tax payments.

Howard had been weighing a run for County Executive for some time, balancing her desire to return to public service against the duties of a financial supervisor job she took in Aberdeen last fall. She decided to run for office again, she said, because she felt she could bring important skills to the county executive post.

“I know how to govern in hard economic times,” she said, and she would not bring a partisan agenda to the job.

She will be running in the Democratic primary against Robert McKnight, the mayor of North East, and a political newcomer, Winston Robinson, who worked in the county Treasurer’s office in the past and is currently senior financial officer for the city of Wilmington.

While Howard’s name had been floating in political circles for some time, there was a last minute surprise Wednesday when Michael A. Dawson—not to be confused with Michael W. Dawson who ran for state Delegate in 2010—filed later in the day to run for county executive as a Republican. His entry into the race brought to seven the number of candidates filed in the Republican primary for County Executive.

Leading contenders already filed in the GOP primary are County Commissioners Tari Moore (R-2) and Diana Broomell (R-4), along with former commissioner Harry Hepbron, owner of the Dove Valley Vineyard and Winery in Rising Sun. Also filed are Pete Pritchard, a former civilian employee of the Army and unsuccessful school board candidate; Paul Trapani, a marina owner; and Richard Boyle, a retiree and county budget critic.

Dawson, known in Perryville as MAD Mike to distinguish him from the other Dawson, is a controversial first-term town commissioner. MAD Dawson has become the choice of the Smipkin political machine, led by Sen. E.J. Pipkin and Del. Michael Smigiel, both R-36, to carry out a variety of tasks at their behest.

They recently named him to represent Cecil County towns at the Upper Shore Regional Council, despite the fact that state law and the group’s bylaws state the representative must be selected by the county’s eight towns. The mayors have written a protest letter against the rump action promoting Dawson, and declaring that the mayors choose Joseph Zang, the mayor of Cecilton.

[SEE previous Cecil Times report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2012/01/smipkins-install-crony-as-cecil-county-towns-rep-on-regional-panel-cecil-county-mayors-cry-foul/ ]

Dawson was an unsuccessful GOP primary candidate for County Commissioner in 2010, challenging Broomell in District 4. Broomell won the primary and went on to defeat Democrat Carl Roberts in the general election.

By getting into the county executive race in this year’s GOP primary, Dawson will once again be challenging Broomell, who filed on Tuesday for County Executive. But since her election as a county Commissioner, Broomell has generally joined a voting bloc of Smipkin allies—Commissioners James Mullin (R-1) and Michael Dunn (R-3)—to control the five-member panel.

Dawson has worked as an aide to Smigiel since his former aide, Dunn, won a seat as a commissioner. Dawson also works for a limousine service.

For more than a year, rumors that Pipkin would enter the race for county executive have swirled around the county– even as Pipkin rose to the top leadership post, minority leader, for state Senate Republicans and boosted his statewide visibility for a potential run for Comptroller or Governor in 2014. Despite the political improbability of a Pipkin run for local office, some potential candidates held back out of fear of possibly challenging him.

Sheriff Barry Janney, a Republican who has announced he won’t be a candidate for re-election as Sheriff, had filled out papers to run for County Executive but initially held back after hearing renewed rumors that Pipkin might get into the contest, sources said.

Janney then leaned toward filing to run, but faced concerns among his staffers about the leadership of the law enforcement agency if he were to leave to become County Executive.

Under the state Constitution, the Governor alone has the power to appoint a sheriff for the remainder of a term and does not need to consult with anyone or any political party committee.

In the end, Janney decided to stay where he is.

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13 Responses to Cecil County Exec: Pam Howard Files as Democrat; Michael A. Dawson Files as Smipkin Stand-in for GOP

  1. John Perry on January 14, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Mad Mike Dawson has done nothing but create chaos since winning by a one vote margin in Perryville. Shows the importance of studying issues and then voting. If he is elected and brings his attitude to the County Executive position he will be worse than Commissioner Broomell.

  2. John U on January 29, 2012 at 10:05 am

    A note to all Republican voters: a Pipkin/Smigiel County Executive would be very bad for Cecil County. But you also need to remember that if you vote for Tari Moore for County Exec, Pipkin/Smigiel get to pick her County Council replacement. If that happens, not only will Pipkin and Smigiel be able to stop anything that the county exec wants to accomplish, but it also raises the specter of Diana Broomell being County Council President– and she then controls the agenda.

    If Republicans and Tari Moore care about Cecil County, and not their own self-interest, Tari Moore will stay right where she is. A vote for Tari Moore is a vote for Pipkin and Smigiel.

    • Rick O'Shea on January 29, 2012 at 11:33 am

      A note to GOP primary election voters: Vote for Tari Moore for County Executive to keep Broomell where she is (until the following election where she can be voted out); vote for Alan Mc Carthy to replace Jim Mullin, the Smipkin, in District 1; vote for Robert Hodge, who has done a terrific job, in District 5. With Tari Moore as County Executive, the Council would need a super-majority (four votes) in order to control things.

      A note to all voters (GOP, Dem, Unaffiliated) in the general election: vote for the previously mentioned candidates for the same reasons. It will take the next two election cycles to completely oust the Smipkins. Don’t base your decisions on “what-if” scenarios. (And, by the way, vote for Baynes and Murray for Circuit Court judges.)

    • Joe on January 29, 2012 at 10:25 pm

      I think the shear volume of Republicans running for County Executive shows that we care about Cecil County. Why are you trying to limit the choices of the voters in Cecil County? This sounds like something out of the Obama scarebook. Create something to run against because you cannot run on your party’s record of high taxes, negative job growth, strangling regulations and a total lack of a sound energy policy. We are tired of Change, we want real money in our pockets not the governments! If the voters do not like one candidate or another, there are choices and thank God we live in a county that allows for choices. The decision will be made in the voting booth, not by a member of the Democratic Central Committee.

      • SchoolMarm on January 30, 2012 at 12:41 pm

        Perhaps voters should not ignore Democratic candidates, as they did across the board in the last election (we see where that got us!!). Certainly Pam Howard deserves consideration–honest, responsible, experienced, and bipartisan (or is the latter a bad term in Republican circles?)

        • Rick O'Shea on January 30, 2012 at 5:15 pm

          Earth to SchoolMarm: The Republican Club of Cecil County endorsed Judge Baynes(R) and Judge Murray(D)but not Delegate Smigiel(R). We’ll see what action the Democrat Club takes.

          • SchoolMarm on January 31, 2012 at 9:07 am

            I was, in this case, speaking of the credentials of candidate Pam Howard; in the general election there will be a Democratic nominee and voters should look at the qualifications of the two “finalists” and choose wisely, don’t you think? (Don’t know where the Earth comment came from. Maybe you were thinking of Gingrich’s plan to colonize the moon?)

        • Ed Burke on January 31, 2012 at 8:21 pm

          I believe that Rick was responding to your implication that bipartisanship is a bad term in Republican circles. His post regarding the Republican Club endorsement of Judge Murray(D) confirms that Republicans support good candidates regardless of party affiliation. I believe that the “Earth to SchoolMarm” comment references your apparent lack of knowledge regarding local politics. Hope this helps.

      • bettyd on January 30, 2012 at 7:30 pm

        The comparison you are trying to make is unbelievable. President Obama has cut taxes across the board, there has been 22 months of positive job growth, creating two million plus jobs. Anyone who thinks our economy can be corrected in 4 years when GDP was declining at 9% a quarter when Bush was in office, is naive.
        I think the Democratic Central Committee has shown they are leaders and have a right to their opinions.

        • Ed Burke on January 31, 2012 at 7:25 am

          Joe is correct, Betty D. The only job growth was a spike caused by the stimulus handouts to his union pals/contributors. Oh, and the jobs created in China by his Jobs Czar… Solendra bailout/bankruptcy combo to benefit investors/campaign contributors. Electric car subsidies to the tune of $250,000.00 for batteries that catch the car on fire. What tax cuts? Just to let you know, President Bush has been gone for three years and the DEMs controlled the White House and Congress for most of that time.

    • Bob B. on January 31, 2012 at 7:47 am

      Your facts are not correct, John. Tari Moore’s replacement process on the County Council is spelled out by Section 209 of our new Charter government. The Republican Central Committee has to submit three names to the County Council. Then the County Council appoints the person they deem best qualified to hold office. If the Council fails to fill the vacancy, the County Executive appoints the person to fill that vacancy. Here is Section 209 of the Charter Code:

      209. Vacancies

      (a) A vacancy occurs when a council member, prior to the expiration of the term for which elected, dies, resigns from office, or becomes disqualified to hold office pursuant to Section 208 of this Charter.

      (b) When a vacancy occurs, the remaining council members within thirty days shall appoint a person to serve the unexpired term of office. The appointee shall be selected by a majority vote of the remaining council members. The appointee shall meet the same qualifications and residence requirements and, when succeeding a party member, shall be a member of the same political party as the person who vacated office.

      (c) When succeeding a party member, the appointee shall be selected from a list of three persons submitted to the Council by the County central committee of the political party affiliated with the person vacating office, provided the list is submitted within thirty days from the date a vacancy occurs. If no, such list is submitted within thirty days, or if the council member vacating office is not a member of a political party, the Council shall appoint the person it deems best qualified to hold office regardless of his or her party affiliation, if any, provided the appointee meets the qualifications and residency requirements provided in Subsection (b) of this section.

      (d) If the Council fails to fill a vacancy pursuant to the provisions of this section, the Executive shall appoint a person to fill the vacancy, provided the appointee is nominated in accordance with the provisions of this section and meets its qualification and residency requirements.

      • John U on February 1, 2012 at 10:00 pm

        The replacement comes from the list supplied by the Central Committee, regardless of whether the council or exec chooses. Therefore the central committee ultimately makes the pick. A Smipkin Central Committee will only submit their clones, so Pipken and Smigiel will have the last say, whether Moore or Broomell wins.

        • Jackie on February 3, 2012 at 3:32 pm

          Selecting the most qualified candidate for executive needs to be the top priority. Although the Smipkin machine is well-funded through papa Pipkin, they are very limited in people resources. I doubt they have three loyal clones in that district. Depending on who they nominate, it could further undermine their claim of “fiscal responsibility.” Appointing a “team” member who has shown anything but fiscal restraint could be the undoing of both daddy Smipkins. Dunn has already undermined and damaged them quite a bit with his own incompetence. I wonder if they would be willing to risk their own undoing by nominating another underling that could ruin them in the eyes of Cecil County Republican voters.

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