Del. Mike Smigiel’s “Oh, Canada” Judgeship Campaign: Parlez Vous Cecil County?
Do French Canadians vote in Cecil County judicial elections? Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36) must think so, based upon some of his judgeship campaign materials that direct local voters to a Quebec phone number that is answered with a message in French.
Be careful, Cecil County voters on a limited budget. If you call Smigiel’s campaign phone number, you will end up paying for toll calls to Canada—and unless you speak French, you won’t even know to whom you are speaking, but it won’t be the local American judicial candidate himself.
Smigiel’s run for a Cecil County Circuit Court judge seat in the 2012 elections has been marred by mis-steps from the outset, and his latest faux pas (oui, lots of Francais angles here) just adds to his political comedy of errors.
The Elkton lawyer and Chesapeake City resident Smigiel has filed as a candidate for Cecil County Circuit Court judge, challenging two sitting judges—Keith Baynes, a Republican, and Jane Cairns Murray, a Democrat– in what is officially a non-partisan election. All the candidates will appear on the ballot in both the Republican and Democratic primaries in April, with the two top vote-getters in each primary appearing on the November general election ballot. If the same two candidates win each party primary, they will appear unopposed on the November ballot.
Smigiel declined to go through the extensive legal community vetting process that Baynes and Murray went through before they were approved and appointed to their court seats by the governor.
Instead, Smigiel filed as a political challenger to them, apparently hoping his past victories for state delegate would propel him through the Republican primary. However, he has little chance of winning the Democratic primary and seems to be banking on a GOP primary success so as to fight in the November general election for a court seat.
But Smigiel, who is involved in the current General Assembly session in Annapolis, has been largely a no-show on the local political campaign trail. His rivals have received broad bipartisan support from both Democratic and Republican political groups and have a widespread yard and roadside sign presence throughout the county.
So far, Smigiel is relying on a low-budget, door-to-door plastic bag campaign, including his campaign materials with flyers from other local GOP candidates aligned with the Smipkin political machine’s roster of candidates pledging allegiance to Smigiel and state Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-36).
And that is where our Cecil County/Franco-Canadian drama grows into international intrigue.
The Smipkin group is distributing, door-to-door, a pen, bearing the inscription “Elect Michael D. Smigiel, Judge” with a telephone number for voters to call. But the phone number is listed, according to White Pages online directories, to an address in New Richmond, Quebec, Canada—which is located substantially northeast of Ottawa in a largely French-speaking area of the Quebec province.
Cecil Times called the phone number, which was answered by a voicemail message, in French that began, “Bon Jour” and ended with “Merci.” We don’t speak French, but during the brief message there was not a single mention of the name “Smigiel” or the English words “judge” or “Cecil County.”
This faux pas is just the latest Smigiel mis-step in his 2012 campaign for judge. He first declared his candidacy with a letter that mis-appropriated the official seal of the Maryland Administrative Office of the Courts, a non-partisan, administrative agency that deals with day-to-day operations of the state courts and does NOT endorse judicial candidates.
When other lawyers called him out on his mis-use of the official seal and some complained to the state, Smigiel blamed a female “volunteer” for putting out a blatantly political appeal under the non-partisan, official seal of the state court system.
[SEE Cecil Times report on Smigiel’s court campaign “sealgate” here:
Meanwhile, Smigiel has still not filed his legally-required campaign finance report that was due in January, according to state Board of Elections data. He has been assessed a $130 late-filing fine, for failing to file his accounting of donations and expenditures for political activities in 2011. That report was due to be filed in early January, 2012.
Smigiel has repeatedly violated the state campaign finance reporting law, including his 2008 report that was filed over a year and a half late.
Since the fines are so low, some candidates choose to violate the filing law so they can hide their campaign donations until after an election and voters in that election are kept in the dark about their political money donors.
The last available Smigiel campaign finance report, filed 1/19/11, showed he had a cash balance of $649 at that time.
Since we don’t speak or write French, we’re not sure how to evaluate Smigiel’s latest “amis” appeal via potential French-Canadian consorts. Do Maryland campaign finance reports require US dollar equivalents for Canadian dollar donations?
Is Smigiel malevolently defying the law to keep voters in the dark? Or is he just clueless, and blissfully ignorant of details and the legal fine points that should be required and expected of a Circuit Court Judge?