Cecil County Council Dist. 5: Hodge Overpowers K. Moore in GOP Primary
(UPDATED 10:58 pm) Incumbent County Commissioner Robert Hodge overpowered a political neophyte challenger– backed by Sen. E.J. Pipkin– to hold on to his District 5 seat in the Republican primary. With 20 precincts reporting, Hodge tallied 63 percent of the vote to 37 percent for Keith Moore.
During primary election voting on Tuesday, turnout at the polls was reported “very low” all day, county election officials said.
It almost wasn’t a contest in the Republican primary for the new County Council seat in District 5—until a half hour before the filing deadline, when political newcomer Keith Moore suddenly registered as a Republican for the first time and filed to challenge Hodge.
Since then, the contest, such as it was, between the two candidates has been overshadowed by a series of negative and distorted robocalls and mailings, paid for by state Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-36), attacking Hodge and fellow Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2). (Tari Moore is running for County Executive in the GOP primary.)
Hodge, a businessman with degrees from Penn State, won a narrow election victory to his seat four years ago. Since then, he has been a strong pro-business voice on the Commissioners board and often a stickler for detail and questioning county staff on fine points at commissioner worksessions. But he also has a brusque, no-nonsense style that has put off some citizens.
Keith Moore, who has a GED high school diploma, owns a printing business in North East and was an unaffiliated voter until he suddenly got the GOP religion and registered as a member of the party and filed his candidacy about a half-hour before the filing deadline in January. In discussions and candidate appearances, he has had a meek demeanor and admitted he didn’t know much about county government or current issues facing the county.
On his Facebook wall, he wrote on 3/23/12 that “My platform is the same as every other candidate, for the safety, prosperity and well-being of Cecil County.” When a voter challenged him, saying that if he was just like all the other candidates, why should he get a vote over the others, he responded, “I’m honest, hard-working and fair.”
It shouldn’t have been much of a contest but Keith Moore was taken under Pipkin’s wing and touted as a Pipkin-approved candidate on a mailer sent out to voters. In addition, his campaign literature was included with that of other members of the Pipkin slate in plastic baggies deposited at doors throughout the county.
Other members of the baggies 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, who is now running for County Executive; and incumbent 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 Pipkin.
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.
But so far, at least from reports filed with the state elections board, Pipkin’s money hasn’t yet flowed directly to Keith Moore’s campaign account.
As of the 3/18/12 pre-primary campaign finance reports, both candidates were running low-budget campaigns. But Hodge had a fundraiser last weekend that should add to his coffers, beyond the $2,179 he had raised already. Hodge had saved his signs from his County Commissioner race four years ago, and recycled them with new stickers, to cut down on expenses. He had a substantial roadside sign presence and multiple newspaper ads.
Hodge also benefitted from being endorsed by the new Cecil Business Leaders for Better Government PAC, which published ads urging voters to support its favored candidates.
Keith Moore benefited from the printing business he owns doing in-kind services to produce his campaign brochures but he had very few roadsigns around the county.
He listed direct contributions of $448 to his campaign from family members and $48 from his business, while he received printing services from his business worth $965, according to the pre-primary report.
The winner of the Republican primary in District 5 will face James Crouse, who was 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.
During his unopposed campaign, Crouse appeared at candidate forums and had a scattering of roadside signs around the county.