Cecil County Council: Hodge Gets PAC, Family $; Crouse Taps Dem Old Guard in Dist. 5 Campaign

November 4, 2012

Incumbent Republican Cecil County Commissioner Robert Hodge drew $3,000 in Political Action Committee (PAC) donations but his family donated the largest lump sums to his campaign while Democratic challenger James Crouse, the former mayor of Elkton, tapped the Old Guard of his party in the race for the new County Council seat in District 5.

Both Hodge and Crouse ran relatively low-budget efforts in the primaries, in which Crouse was unopposed for the Democratic nomination while Hodge soundly defeated a political unknown, Keith Moore, who challenged him in the GOP contest. However, Hodge was targeted by an attack campaign of robocalls and negative mailers financed and organized by the Smipkin political machine led by Sen. E.J. Pipkin and Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36.)

Going into the primary season, Hodge had raised a total of just $1,905 but an influx of money later in the game has boosted Hodge’s total donations to $26,720. In contrast, Crouse filed an affidavit for his primary campaign, stating he did not intend to raise or spend over $1,000. For the general election, his finance report shows that, through 10/21/12, Crouse had raised a total of $8,566.

For Crouse, most of his donations came from well-known Democratic names with a long history of involvement in local politics. One of his biggest individual checks came from former state Sen. Walter Baker ($1,000) and he received $1,000 from the Cecil County Democrat Club as well as $100 from the Women’s Democratic Club.

Jack Sentman, beer and beverage distributor and a longtime donor to local political candidates, also donated $1,000 to Crouse. Former state Delegate Ron Guns chipped in $200 and longtime county Orphans Court judge Betty Eliason gave $300. Former County Commissioner Mary Maloney also donated $300.

For Hodge, the Maryland Realtors PAC donated a total of $3,000 in three installments and those were his only PAC donations. (Commissioner Tari Moore, R-2, received the same amount from the Realtors PAC in her campaign for county executive but she also received other PAC funds.)

Like Moore—and failed Democratic primary candidate for county executive Robert McKnight—Hodge received donations from entities and people associated with Harford County developer Clark Turner, but to a lesser degree. Hodge received $1,000 on 4/12/12 from CT Charlestown Crossing, a mixed-use housing development under construction along Route 40 in North East. Additionally, Dan Whitehurst of Havre de Grace—an executive with the Clark Turner organization who often appears before Cecil County commissioner to represent Turner interests—donated $500 on 4/12/12 and $1,000 on 10/9/12. (Hodge did not receive funds from Turner personally or from another Turner affiliate that has proposed another large housing development, unlike McKnight and Moore.)

Hodge’s family provided his largest individual donations, with his mother, Elizabeth, donating a total of $4,000 and his father, Robert H. Hodge, writing checks for another $4,000 to their son’s campaign. Additional, other Hodge relatives in Pennsylvania donated a total of $500.

Hodge also received a total of $750 from Ralph and Mary Hall of Galena—owners and operators of several Sassafras River businesses including the Kitty Knight House, Georgetown Yacht Basin and The Granary restaurant. (Moore received $3,000 from Ralph Hall for her campaign fund.)

Two regional politicians transferred small sums from their campaign accounts to Hodge: $100 from Rep. Andy Harris (R-1) and $100 from Harford County Executive David Craig, who is expected to seek the GOP nomination for Governor in 2014.

Hodge received an in-kind donation, valued at $1,407, from Stewart Associates, of York, PA—the largest landowner in Cecil County—for food and beverages for a 3/31/12 fundraising event. And Ted Kolodzey, a dissident member of the county’s Republican Central Committee– which is majority-controlled by the Smipkin machine—donated website design services valued at $599.

Unusual in a Cecil County campaign for local office were the consulting expenses paid by the Hodge campaign, including $3,000 to a Baltimore political consultant, Chevy Weiss, and $300 to Strategic Victory Consulting, in Catonsville.

Hodge has been carrying over on his state campaign finance reports personal loans to his campaign totaling $12,000 from his 2008 run for county commissioner. This year, he added another $6,500 in new loans. But his campaign ultimately re-paid some of the loans– a total of $8,000– leaving a continuing, carry-over loan balance of $10,500.

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