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Upper Shore Senate: Sossi, Hershey File in Dist 36 GOP Race as $ Shows Local Support for Sossi, Hershey Fueled by Loans and PACs (and Issue Aimed at Smigiel?)

January 29, 2014
By Nancy Schwerzler

Former Del. Dick Sossi has filed his candidacy in the Dist. 36 state Senate race against newly appointed Sen. Steve Hershey, setting up a grudge match replay of the 2010 Republican primary for a Delegate seat in which Hershey beat veteran incumbent Sossi by 124 votes after a last-minute negative campaign flyer attack. This time, both candidates are well-funded—although by very different means—and Hershey seems to be taking out an issue insurance policy just in case Del. Michael Smigiel gets into the Senate contest.

Sossi, who held a Delegate seat from Queen Anne’s County in the four-county 36th District from 2002 until he lost it in late 2010, has continued to make the rounds of community events and issue meetings in the area for the past several years as a district representative for US Rep. Andy Harris (R-1). He resigned that post in late December and formally filed as a candidate on 1/23/14, although he had made no secret of his plans since last summer and for months has been traveling the district in a brightly decorated van that proclaims “Sossi for Senate.”

Hershey was appointed by Governor Martin O’Malley to fill the vacant Senate seat in the district after the surprise resignation last August of former Sen. E.J. Pipkin, who left the state to move to Texas and study sports management. But Hershey’s appointment only came after a bruising internal battle among the four Republican Central Committees in the district deadlocked between him and Smigiel, thus leaving the choice to the governor.

As expected, Hershey formally filed his candidacy to win election to his appointive Senate seat on 12/30/13.

In newly filed this month campaign finance reports covering 2013 fundraising, Hershey has a nearly $10,000 cash in the bank advantage over Sossi, who still had funds in reserve in his previous delegate campaign account. Hershey’s money in the bank tally is $37,989, while Sossi reports cash on hand of $28,014.

A review of Sossi’s latest campaign finance report shows that all of his donations last year came from residents of the district and in relatively modest amounts—with a family exception: $500 from his daughter, who lives in Montgomery County, MD. In contrast, Hershey’s donations show an influx in donations by out-of-district business interests and Political Action Committees (PACs).

And, while Sossi’s campaign account shows only a $100 outstanding personal loan balance, Hershey’s report shows a whopping $27,500 outstanding balance of personal loans to his account. Most of Hershey’s self-funded loans go back to his 2010 long-shot candidacy for delegate, but he has continued loans to his political fund as recently as 2013. Indeed, he has deficit-financed his campaign account with a total of $8,499 in personal loans since the 2010 election, including loans in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

In his January, 2014 report filed with the state Board of Elections, Hershey listed $7,450 in donations by PACs, including medical, telecommunications, insurance and energy interests. But several separately listed and accounted for donations in his general campaign money category include out-of-district business political interest donations from “Capitol Hill Strategic Advocates,” Choptank (Rural Electric) Cooperative, Feld Entertainment (the circus operators from Virginia), Merritt Properties of Baltimore, and the “Maryland Association of Tobacco and Candy Distributors,” among others.

Hershey’s expense reports also show payments of $1,200 for consulting services to the “Wellfonder Group”– an entity headed by Jackie Wellfonder, who writes a political blog and participates in the “Red Maryland” network of blogs and internet radio broadcasts that advocate for conservative causes and Republican candidates in the state.

Under state law, Hershey is barred from further campaign fundraising while the General Assembly is in session until early April. But Sossi is not bound by that limitation and has scheduled a campaign bullroast fundraiser on 2/23/14 at the American Legion Post 278, on Kent Island.

In announcing his candidacy, Sossi cited his experience as a combat veteran of the Vietnam War and his concern for the lack of mental health services for veterans and other patients on the Eastern Shore. He also cited the “continued financial assault on our farmers and watermen” by state government regulations as issues he wants to address in Annapolis. While a Delegate, Sossi sat on the Environmental Matters committee.

Hershey, who was placed on the Senate Judiciary Committee when he was appointed to his seat a few months ago, has recently taken up the cause of domestic violence victims, writing an op-ed piece that was published verbatim in the Cecil Whig and several other newspapers in the district controlled by the Whig’s foreign corporate ownership.

Hershey’s choice of that issue—and the particulars of previously failed legislation to bring Maryland into line with all other states in the nation on the legal standard for ‘orders of protection’ for victims of domestic violence— also highlights Del. Smigiel’s past opposition to that legislation. Smigiel’s opposition drew the fire of women’s groups around the state and protests by women in the General Assembly who claimed that the House Judiciary Committee on which Smigiel sits was abusive toward women witnesses on that issue.

The House Judiciary Committee killed the legislation, with Smigiel voting to kill it, in the spring of 2010—before Hershey was a delegate. The vote to kill the legislation came despite the testimony of a woman whose three children were murdered by her estranged husband after a judge refused to extend an order of protection. News articles, including pieces in the Washington Post, and websites criticized the committee and Smigiel for killing the legislation that Hershey is now endorsing.

Although Smigiel firmly declared last summer while fighting Hershey for the appointment to Pipkin’s Senate seat that he would run for the Senate seat in the 2014 election regardless of who got the temporary appointment, in recent months he has not repeated that assertion at public appearances and many local political observers expect him to run again for his Delegate seat.

But in citing the domestic violence/protective order issue, Hershey has made a pre-emptive issue strike just in case Smigiel gets into the Senate contest at the last minute.

Hershey has a Facebook page here:
https://www.facebook.com/SenatorSteveHershey?fref=ts

Sossi’s Facebook page, with his full name of Richard A. Sossi, is here:
https://www.facebook.com/#!/richard.sossi

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One Response to Upper Shore Senate: Sossi, Hershey File in Dist 36 GOP Race as $ Shows Local Support for Sossi, Hershey Fueled by Loans and PACs (and Issue Aimed at Smigiel?)

  1. DW Senn on January 30, 2014 at 6:52 am

    Come on. Why did Pipkin really skip the state in the dead of night? There’s got to be a story there. At least he didn’t use the tired old excuse of “wanting to spend more time with his family.”

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