Cecil County Campaign $: Patchell, Schneckenburger Raise Quick $ for Council Races; Willick Gives $ to ‘Consultant’ Patterson; Dunn Replaces Campaign Aide Facing State Prosecutor Probe
New reports to the state Board of Elections by recently-filed candidates for Cecil County offices show that two County Council candidates have quickly assembled substantial campaign warchests while a minimally-financed incumbent Councilor has removed his campaign treasurer, who is barred under state election rules from service due to her involvement with a PAC that is under state investigation.
Under campaign finance reforms enacted by the General Assembly and taking effect for this year’s primary elections, candidates who filed their candidacy after a January campaign finance report filing deadline must now file a “spring report” showing their financial activities since they filed for office. In the past, citizens would have had to wait until a later pre-primary reporting deadline to assess the campaign finance activities of the late candidates. Candidates who filed a report in January did not have to file the most recent “spring” reports, which were due last week.
In the County Council races, George Patchell, the longtime executive director of the county’s YMCA who is running in the Republican primary in District 4, raised $4,106 in contributions plus $3,720 in fundraiser ticket sales, for a $7,826 warchest. He spent $7,067 on the usual billboard, printing and yard sign expenses, plus he has “outstanding bills” for more printing and ad costs amounting to $2,245. That means he has to raise additional funds to cover those bills going forward, but the hefty expenditures early in the campaign indicate he is going all-out in his bid to unseat incumbent Republican Diana Broomell in the GOP primary.
In contrast, Broomell filed an affidavit in January, swearing that she has not raised or spent over $1,000 on her campaign since a report filed 3/23/12.
Patchell’s donations, including ticket sales for a fundraiser at the Wellwood in Charlestown, show many familiar Republican names in the county with relatively modest contributions. His largest donor, for $1,000, was Ronald Kidd of Port Deposit.
Another Council candidate, Dan Schneckenburger, an engineer and longtime member of county jobs and economic development advisory panels, raised $5,410, including a $500 loan he made to his campaign and ticket sales to a fundraiser at the Granary. After expenses of $3,674 for the usual printing and yard sign costs, he had a bank balance of $1,735. He had several $250 donations from local Republicans and some similar contributions from relatives in Virginia. Schneckenburger is a candidate in the Republican primary for Council in District 3, where he is seeking to unseat incumbent Councilor Michael Dunn.
Dunn filed an affidavit in January, stating that he has neither raised nor spent over $1,000 on his re-election campaign since a report filed with the state 1/17/11. That affidavit was filed by his campaign treasurer, Meagan Schwartz.
But on 3/4/14, Dunn filed an amended campaign committee organization statement with the state Board of Elections, replacing Schwartz as his treasurer with Charlie Hinkle. According to state election records, Schwartz’ role as an official of a Political Action Committee created two years ago is now under investigation by the Office of the State Prosecutor. State election law specifies that a campaign treasurer for an active campaign committee “must be in good standing with the Candidacy and Campaign Finance Division” of the state elections board.
As Cecil Times has been writing for nearly two years, a PAC—“Republicans of Cecil County”– created by Schwartz and her mother, Lisa Conley, funneled money to another PAC led by Robert Gorman that used the money to finance a sleaze attack mailer against Circuit Court Judge Keith Baynes in the 2012 election. Both Conley and Gorman have long-standing ties to Del. Michael Smigiel, who was an unsuccessful candidate against Baynes for a judicial seat in 2012. For two years, the “Republicans of Cecil County PAC” has refused to file multiple required campaign finance reports to show where it obtained the money it then transferred to Gorman’s PAC to finance the attack mailings.
[SEE previous Cecil Times report, including links to earlier reports, here: http://ceciltimes.com/2013/12/cecil-county-politics-chatter-secret-pac-pursued-by-state-moore-returns-to-gop-fold-early-filers-in-county-contests/ ]
The state Board of Elections has filed multiple “show cause” orders against Schwartz and Conley, which specified that if they did not file the required reports and pay multiple fines for disobeying the law, they would be barred from election candidacy or serving as a treasurer for any other campaign committee for five years. Despite the brazen violation of state law, the elections board only forwarded the case to the State Prosecutor in the past few weeks.
Dunn is a former employee and longtime political ally of Del. Smigiel, who is a candidate for re-election to his House of Delegates seat in District 36 this year.
Meanwhile, another candidate running against Dunn in the GOP primary—Robert Willick, a leader of the Cecil County “Campaign for Liberty” conservative group—had an interesting campaign finance report showing most of his $1,937 in donations came from outside Cecil County. And his largest campaign expense was a “consultant” fee to “Patterson Consulting,” tied to Ted Patterson, the state chairman of the Maryland Campaign for Liberty (C4L) group.
Patterson, a Cecil County resident who ran unsuccessfully for a state Delegate seat four years ago, has been raking in consulting fees through other C4L entities, including the group’s “Liberty PAC” that for several years has listed consulting fees paid to a firm tied to Patterson and that usually used his home address for billing, as its major expense, according to state Board of Elections records.
In other Council races, Chris Zeauskas, who is also aligned with the C4L group, filed an affidavit stating he had only raised or spent under $1,000 in his GOP primary campaign for the District 2 seat currently held by Republican Joyce Bowlsbey. He is also a candidate for the county’s GOP Central Committee in the primary.
And the perpetual candidate confusion involving Michael A. Dawson—known locally in Perryville as MAD Dawson—persists in his last-minute entry into the County Council race in the Republican primary in District 4. His official campaign committee, listed by the state elections board as “Dawson, Michael (M) for Council,” filed an affidavit stating he has raised or spent under $1,000 for his campaign. But on his candidacy filing, his name is listed as “Dawson, Michael ‘Mike’ ” and the elections board mistakenly posted his latest campaign finance affidavit under a heading stating he was running for “Register of Wills” in Cecil County.
In fact, Michael W. Dawson—whose ballot candidacy includes the moniker “Good Mike” to differentiate him from MAD Dawson—is officially filed as a GOP candidate for Register of Wills. (If the elections board can’t figure it out, pity the poor voters in the county…)
Meanwhile, in the hotly contested campaign in both party primaries for Cecil County Sheriff, Democrat Bilton Morgan is leading his party’s multi-candidate race in fundraising. He reported donations of $10,020—including a $4,000 donation from Joseph J. Dunn of Conshohocken, PA and another $4,000 from the Willis family in Downingtown, PA—and expenses of $4,938 on the usual printing, yard signs, etc., leaving a bank balance of $5,126.
Democrat Guy Miller listed contributions of $100; Democrat William (Danny) Blackburn listed no cash donations but ‘in-kind’ donations worth $3,410 covering campaign signs he paid for himself.
Another Democrat, William Gerczak, listed contributions of $1,329, including $329 he donated himself to the campaign and $1,000 from the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) Lodge 3 PAC in Baltimore. His campaign was several days late in filing its report but, in an email to the state elections board, asked for a waiver of late fees/fines due to apparent problems in submitting the required online reports.
On the Republican primary side of the Sheriff’s contest, Cecil Times has previously reported on the candidacies of Chris Sutton—the top fundraiser so far in the campaign—and the close campaign warchest compiled by rival Scott Adams.
Dan Slater, who lost in the 2010 Republican primary against now retiring Sheriff Barry Janney, raised $9,040 last year, and had a carry-over balance from his previous campaign account of $4,865. In his latest campaign, Slater has spent $5,160 and still has cash in his bank account of $8,745—enough to mount a last-minute challenge to the much more visible Sutton and Adams campaigns.
Among other GOP candidates for Sheriff, Chip Peterson, the popular Rising Sun town police chief, filed an affidavit stating he had not raised or spent over $1,000 on his campaign. William Killough, a former county Sheriff who left office in the mid-1990’s, reported raising $600 in contributions plus $2,971 in personal loans to his campaign.