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