Cecil County Politics: McCarthy, Billmire File for 1st Dist. to Challenge Incumbent Mullin
The southern Cecil County First District will become a battleground in this yearâ€™s County Council races as two candidates filed Tuesday to challenge incumbent James Mullin, a Republican.
Dr. Alan McCarthy, a veterinarian and real estate operator, filed to challenge Mullin in the Republican primary. He was a founding member of the new Cecil County Business Leaders for Better Government political action committee that singled out Mullin as a target for defeat in this yearâ€™s election.
Cecilton Mayor Joseph Zang, a Republican who had been mentioned as a possible primary challenger to Mullin, told Cecil Times that he had decided not to run and would throw his support to McCarthy.
On the Democratic side, the political rumor mill had been fairly quiet in the south county and some locals questioned whether opponents of Mullin would put all their eggs in one basket: the GOP primary.
But Garrett Billmire, who lives on an Earleville farm and owns a feed-related business, filed Tuesday as the only candidate, so far, in the Democratic primary for the seat. [UPDATE: Pamela Bailey also filed as a Democrat Wednesday afternoon.]
Mullin, who is currently the President of the county Board of Commissioners, is a real estate appraiser who won election four years ago with the support of land preservation and anti-growth groups. He coasted to victory in the general election after a strong rival, then-mayor of Cecilton John Bunnell, lost the Democratic Party primary to a little known candidate– who was backed by some members of the land groups for the purpose of knocking Bunnell out of contention against Mullin.
[UPDATE: Mullin's pals recruited that same spoiler candidate, Pamela Bailey, a secretary, to challenge Billmire this time in the Democratic primary, apparently hoping they can knock off a more challenging foe to Mullin in the primary.]
But Mullin wonâ€™t have such an easy time of it this year, although he will no doubt summon renewed support from groups such as the Appleton Regional Community Alliance (ARCA) and elements of the Cecil Land Use Alliance (CLUA) that backed him before. Mullin supported the campaign led by Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4) to oppose, and ultimately terminate, a contract for sale of four county sewage treatment facilities to the private Artesian Resources. ARCA led a court and regulatory battle against the sale.
Mullin will also have the support of the â€śSmipkinâ€ť political organization, aligned with Del. Michael Smigiel and Sen. E.J. Pipkin, both R-36. Mullin has been an ally and financial backer of the organization and its candidate slates in past elections. Mullin is also a member of the Cecil County Republican Central Committee, which is dominated by new members who won on the Smipkin groupâ€™s slate in 2010.
Mullin, Broomell and Michael Dunn (R-3) have become the controlling voting bloc, dubbed the â€śThree Amigos,â€ť on the five-member county board. Broomell is running for County Executive while Dunnâ€™s seat is not up in this election.
Meanwhile, GOP challenger McCarthy played an important role in the countyâ€™s equine industry, serving as the veterinarian to the legendary Northern Dancer when the famed racehorse was sent to stud at the former Windfields Farm in Chesapeake City. Northern Dancer is in the thoroughbred racing Hall of Fame and is considered to have been the greatest sire in the history of the industry. McCarthy was the horseâ€™s chief medical caregiver until he died in 1990.
Given his background, McCarthy is supportive of the agricultural and equine businesses in the county and their importance to the local economy. But he is concerned that the current political and government â€śclimateâ€ť in Elkton needs to be â€śmore business friendlyâ€ť to all segments of the business community.
â€śWe need to create jobs and we need to get infrastructure into the Route 40 growth corridor,â€ť McCarthy told Cecil Times. â€śIâ€™m not very pleased,â€ť he said, that a majority of the current commissioners â€śwalked away from the Artesianâ€ť contract that could have brought wastewater services to the corridor without taxpayer dollars.
McCarthy has also been involved in real estate ventures, but he said he is not a â€śdeveloperâ€ť and that most of his interests were located within incorporated towns so they did not lead to â€śgrowthâ€ť in rural areas.
He said he is running because he thinks â€śwe need some fresh bloodâ€ť to represent the First District.
McCarthy is expected to be well-financed by local business and equine groups and the new business leaders PAC will clearly be a factor in support for his campaign.
On the Democratic side, Billmire has become a spokesman of sorts for local Democrats in the past year, in letters to the editor and public comments criticizing the current â€śThree Amigosâ€ť bloc on the commissioners board.
He said he decided to challenge Mullin because â€śI just donâ€™t feel Mr. Mullin is serving the best interests of the county.â€ť Billmire said the infighting among the current commissioners is counter-productive: â€śYou canâ€™t run a business that way, and I donâ€™t think you can run a government that way, either.â€ť
Billmire said he believes he has the ability to communicate with people and bring them together to find common ground on issues, â€śand I donâ€™t see a lot of that going on right nowâ€ť in Elkton.
His familyâ€”including his wife and two teenage children who attend Bohemia Manorâ€”lives on a 120-acre farm that was owned by his grandparents. He grew up in the Baltimore area and attended Eisenhower College and the University of Maryland.
Billmire served six years in the U.S. Navy and is co-owner of a business, APEC, that provides sales and services to the animal feed industry, including customers such as Perdue and Purina. He said his business keeps him in constant contact with farmers and the ups and downs of the industry, giving him an understanding of the issues facing the countyâ€™s agricultural business sector.