Cecil County Council: In District 5, Low Budget Campaigns, So Far

March 24, 2012

The race for Cecil County Council in District 5 so far is a low budget affair but newcomer candidate Keith Moore is taking full advantage of his own printing business to produce campaign materials in his bid to unseat incumbent County Commissioner Robert Hodge in the Republican primary, according to new campaign finance reports filed with the state.

As early voting begins Saturday 3/24/12, candidates were required to file their pre-primary campaign finance reports by midnight, 3/23/12. The reports cover the period from 1/12/12 through 3/18/12, and must document contributions, expenditures, and in-kind donations of goods and services to a candidate. Another finance report will be required after the primary.

In his report, Hodge showed a prior balance in his bank account of $1,774, with new donations of $405. His expenses totaled $627 and his account showed cash on hand of about $1,552 at the end of the reporting period.

Expenses included flyer printing costs and purchase of 18 copies of “How to win a local Election” from Amazon for members of his campaign “team.”

Donors included Carolyn Kappra, a real estate agent from Elkton, who gave $150, and Steven Connelly of Rising Sun gave $50. The “Reagan Brigade” local political club gave $205.

(Hodge’s campaign committee is also still carrying over a personal loan balance of $12,000 from his 2008 campaign for county commissioner.)

Hodge has scheduled a $50 a ticket fundraiser on Saturday, 3/31/12, from 4-6 p.m., at the Iron Master’s Mansion in Perryville.

Some critics of Hodge have complained that some of his road signs listed him as running for “County Commissioner.” The election ballot lists the office for which he is running as “County Council,” but those positions do not in fact exist until after the 2012 election, under the new Charter form of government approved overwhelmingly by voters in the 2010 election.

Hodge said he was being environmentally-conscious and recycling old campaign signs but had purchased stickers to update his signs to say he was running for “county councilman.” He said there was a printing delay on the stickers and some signs were initially put out without them, but now sticker updates were being put on his signs around the county.

Hodge’s GOP primary opponent, Keith Moore, a last-minute entry into the race, is making use of the printing business he owns to provide in-kind services to his campaign, according to his filing with the state Board of Elections. Moore titled his campaign committee “Keith Moore for Councilmanic.”

Moore lists direct contributions of $448 to his campaign from family members: $100 from his wife, Hilary Crothers-Moore, and $300 from John Crothers, along with a cash donation of $48 from his printing business. The Moore printing business has provided $965 in services, printing rack cards and yard signs. Another in-kind contribution valued at $1,050 was listed for website design and hosting services provided by Bradley Sadler of Charlestown.

Moore is part of a “bag boys” group—including three other candidates for local offices that are aligned with the Smipkin political organization– who are jointly distributing their campaign materials in plastic bags dropped off on doorsteps throughout the county.

Other members of the group include Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36), who is running for a judicial seat on the Cecil County Circuit Court; Michael A. Dawson, a Perryville town commissioner and member of the Smipkin slate that won control of the county’s Republican Central Committee; and County Commissioner James Mullin (R-1), who is running to keep his seat on the new County Council. All are members in good standing of the Smipkin political alliance, led by Smigiel and state Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-36.)

Keith Moore previously told Cecil Times that he was contacted by Mullin and asked to join their campaign efforts. Moore said Mullin offered to include Moore’s campaign flyers in the baggies distributed on behalf of the group. Moore said “no promises” of allegiance to the Smipkins agenda was asked for and none were offered.

However, the Smipkin organization has targeted Hodge for defeat and a recent telephone automated robocall, which identified Pipkin’s own campaign committee as paying for the calls, attacked Hodge and Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2), who is running for County Executive this year.

It is unusual for a state legislative leader to attack members of his own party in a local primary election. But Hodge and Moore have questioned some appointees and agendas advanced by the Smipkins and their allies on the current Board of Commissioners. As a result, they appear to be on the Smipkin “enemies list” in the elections.

The winner of the Republican primary in District 5 will face James Crouse, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary, on the November general election ballot. Crouse, the former mayor of Elkton who also served several years in the House of Delegates, filed an affidavit with the elections board stating that so far he has not raised donations or made expenditures over $1,000.

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