Dist. 36 Delegates: Cecil GOP Voters Oust Smigiel; Caroline County’s Ghrist Plays 4-County Jumpshot to Top Incumbent
Cecil County Republican Michael Smigiel apparently lost his bid for re-election Tuesday in a redrawn District 36 House of Delegates contest, losing in his home county as well as falling short throughout the four-county district to Caroline County opponent Jeff Ghrist in the Republican primary election.
It was the first time in nearly 20 years that Caroline County had a viable shot at obtaining a seat in the House of Delegates under the redistricting following the 2010 census. And Ghrist, a Caroline County commissioner, waged a focused campaign that included his local supporters voting only for his candidacy and leaving ballots blank for the other two seats in the district– as a way to boost his overall vote tally and tamp down the numbers of other contenders in the district.
[SEE previous Cecil Times report on the complex political basketball strategy involved in the District 36 campaign that gave Cecil County voters a second shot at the free-throw line to replace Smigiel: http://ceciltimes.com/2014/06/state-delegate-dist-36-race-three-hoops-four-basketballs-and-a-caroline-county-jumpshot/ ]
Ghrist also campaigned in Cecil County, where he had a visible sign presence in several towns and along major highways.
That strategy paid off, as Ghrist pulled in 4,235 votes, or 16.9 percent of the districtwide tally, with most precincts reporting. In contrast, Smigiel garnered 4,093 votes districtwide, or 16.3 percent of the GOP vote. Absentee and provisional ballots will still need to be counted in the days following the primary election but in past contests the later counts usually follow the early and election day vote patterns.
Smigiel was soundly defeated in his homebase of Cecil County, where Cecil County Council member Alan McCarthy was the top vote-getter with 1,148 votes, or 22.6 percent of the Cecil County tally for the district. Smigiel drew 979 votes or 19.2 percent of the total.
In the complex political math of the 36th District, candidates for three available seats had to draw votes in all four counties of the sprawling district which covers parts of Cecil and Caroline counties and all of Kent and Queen Anne’s counties. Queen Anne’s county holds the largest proportion of voters casting ballots in the district.
Districtwide, the top GOP vote-getter was Jay Jacobs of Kent County, with 6,668 votes or 26.7 percent. The popular former mayor of Rock Hall was running for his second term in Annapolis. He has been a regular visitor to Cecil County community and government meetings to discus area issues.
Steve Arentz, a newly appointed Delegate from Queen Anne’s county and a former county commissioner, won 6,278 votes, or 25.1 percent of the total. Arentz will face a Democrat, Irving Pinder, in the November general election.
Ghrist’s apparent GOP primary win means that Cecil County would not have a designated resident delegate seat in Annapolis. But Ghrist still faces a strong challenge in November from fellow Caroline County resident Robert Thornton, Jr, a Democrat. Thornton previously held a state Delegate seat from Caroline County about 20 years ago and is seeking to return to Annapolis.
The repudiation of Smigiel by GOP voters in the southern Cecil and Elk Neck areas included in the state district marked the second consecutive election in which local Cecil voters rejected him. He lost a bid for a seat on the Circuit Court in 2010 when voters countywide overwhelmingly rejected his candidacy.
In the overall districtwide vote tally, McCarthy drew 2,027 votes or 8.1 percent of the total. J.D. Uhler, a Cecil County resident, drew 1,035 votes or 4.1 percent while another Cecil County resident, Rod Heinze, received 630 votes or 2.5 percent.